SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The stars in the Giants clubhouse are not looking towards future seasons, despite what has been signaled by management most of this offseason. But the two faces of the franchise certainly helped out some future Giants this week.
On Tuesday, Madison Bumgarner walked up to top prospect Joey Bart and told him he would be catching Bumgarner’s first bullpen session of the spring. It seems no coincidence that a day later Shaun Anderson, the top pitching prospect in the organization, was approached by Buster Posey and told that his first bullpen session would be spent throwing to the best catcher in baseball.
There’s a decent chance Bumgarner and Bart will never work together in the big leagues, but if all goes according to plan, Posey could help indoctrinate Anderson, a polished 24-year-old right-hander, sometime this summer. That process started Wednesday.
“The adrenaline was definitely going when I got out there,” Anderson said a few days later, smiling.
Anderson was excited to be working with Posey, but more than anything, he was just thrilled to be on a mound in big league camp. This is the biggest spring of his life, and after a strong 2018 spent in Double-A and Triple-A, Anderson should be the next Giants pitching prospect to reach the big leagues.
Anderson, 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, sits in the low 90s from the right side with good sink, and has a good slider honed during his days as a college closer. The Giants sent him into the offseason with the goal of working on a changeup that’s also a plus pitch at times.
Anderson would like more consistency from that third offering, which he started throwing more last year as he posted a 3.45 ERA in 25 starts at Double-A Richmond and 4.18 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Sacramento. Overall, Anderson struck out 127 batters in 141 1/3 innings and walked just 33.
The season was a continuation of the solid work Anderson did when he came over from Boston in the middle of 2017 in the Eduardo Nuñez trade, and it was impressive enough that the Giants nearly called him up last August. They had Anderson ready to make his debut when they traveled to New York, but the roster situation changed and he instead was shut down at the end of August.
Since then, the big league roster has changed. The Giants are relatively deep with their rotation. Jeff Samardzija is back from a shoulder injury and Drew Pomeranz and Derek Holland signed in January, so the Giants are six-deep before you even get to familiar names like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach.
Still, the staff is eager to get a look at Anderson in Cactus League games.
“He’s knocking on the door, isn’t he?” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s coming off a good year. We’ve got great reports on his makeup, his stuff, so I look forward to watching him pitch here.”
The road to the big leagues could become shorter if the Giants decide to use Anderson in a different role. Members of the front office are split on whether his future is as a starter or a reliever. If the Giants need bullpen help before a rotation spot opens up, it certainly wouldn’t be an adjustment.
Anderson was the closer at Florida because the staff was loaded with future top picks who became future top prospects -- guys like A.J. Puk, Dane Dunning, Alex Faedo and Brady Singer. He said he would happily move back to the bullpen if asked.
“If that’s what it takes to win, I’m all for it,” Anderson said. “Whatever helps the club win, that’s what I’ll do, whether it’s starting or relieving.”
For now, Anderson will remain a starter, and he’s hoping to soak up as much as he can while in big league camp for the first time. His work with Posey was a good start.
“The insight he had was really great to hear,” Anderson said. “He was just talking about pitching in a different climate and how your ball is going to react to that, how your breaking ball reacts to that and how you should prepare.”
Anderson already has embraced a new climate once. Before the trade, he had never been further west of Arizona. Some of his San Jose Giants teammates were amused by that, and noted that he fit right in with shaggy blonde hair that since has grown out even longer.
“But I was honestly pumped for it,” he said, “Because California is sweet.”
Anderson will start his season in the state’s capitol, and if all goes according to plan, he’ll finish it once again throwing to Posey.