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May 15, 2000

Prospectus Q&A: Ryan Anderson

The Space Needle Speaks

by Jeff Bower

Ryan Anderson was the Seattle Mariners' first-round pick in the June 1997 amateur draft out of Divine Child High School in Dearborn, Michigan. At 6'11 3/4", the hard-throwing southpaw cuts a figure on the mound unlike any seen before.

Anderson's first two professional seasons included a mix of dominant stretches and bouts with inconsistency. However, this season at Triple-A Tacoma, he has put everything together and become the Y2K Rick Ankiel. We caught up to him recently before a game against the Sacramento River Cats.

Baseball Prospectus: When people think of Ryan Anderson, the first thing that comes to mind is his overpowering fastball. However, you recently said that the pitch that you've been working on the most is your fastball. Could you explain that?

Ryan Anderson: Last year my main pitch was my off-speed pitch. When I went to the Arizona Fall League, the Mariners wanted me to work on my fastball and its consistency, and to make sure that I used it a little bit more. So, I went there and mostly used the fastball. To get a good feel for it, I threw it about 80 to 85 percent of the time.

BP: When I've seen you work this year, you've had an effective changeup. I assume that you didn't need that pitch in your high-school two-strike league. Who in the organization taught it to you and when did you start throwing it?

RA: No, I didn't throw it in high school. I started working on it last year with Pat Rice at New Haven, but never used it in a game. This year, I try to throw it about five or six times a game.

BP: Coming out of high school, you were projected to be a very early pick by some publications. What was Draft Day 1997 like when you dropped to #19?

RA: I didn't drop at all. There are things that happen in baseball that no one knows about--about slotting yourself. Everyone thinks that I dropped, but they don't know what goes on behind the scenes.

BP: It seems that the only thing that could get between you and stardom is an injury. What kind of precautions do you and the Mariners take to prevent that?

RA: We do a lot of arm exercises on our days off, and running is another big thing. The legs are the number one thing for pitching--it's not the arm--so we do a lot of running.

BP: Have you ever had any arm problems?

RA: I did when I was with Wisconsin. It was my first year, I was 18 and I had a little tendinitis in my triceps, which went away after a few weeks of rest.

BP: The Mariners keep their minor-league pitchers on a pretty strict pitch count. Do you feel you need one?

RA: When I'm on the mound, if I've done a pretty good job and am still throwing the ball well, I don't feel I should be taken out. If I'm tired I'll tell them. I don't need to be told whether I'm done or not. I know when I'm still able to throw or not. I haven't gone much over 90 pitches this whole year; I can go longer.

BP: Which wears you down more: a high-pitch-count game or a high-pitch inning?

RA: A high-pitch-count inning. Those will wear you out.

BP: You struggled a bit at New Haven last year. However, things seemed to come together during the Pan Am Games and you pitched well when you returned to the Eastern League. What clicked?

RA: Last year when I left to go to the All-Star games and the Pan Am games, Pat Rice told me not to even worry about mechanics, to just go out there and throw. When I started doing that is when I started to have success. I don't even concentrate on mechanics anymore until I actually need to.

BP: Do you work different hitters differently, or do you have so much confidence in your stuff that you just throw your game?

RA: I go at hitters the way I feel I should pitch to them, the way I think I can get them out. Sometimes I do it a little bit differently--my catcher might feel at that time that I should change things up. But most of the time I'm just out there pitching by feel.

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