By: Tom Joyce
This is not what Shaun Anderson is known for, but he is giving it a try regardless.
Highly-regarded as a dominant closer at the University of Florida, the Coral Springs native heard his name called by the Boston Red Sox in the third round of this past MLB draft. It made sense: he was 3-0 with a 0.97 ERA and 13 saves in 36 games for the Gators. Clearly, the Red Sox saw a guy who could progress through their minor league system quickly and be an asset in their bullpen. Or did they?
“I knew I wanted to start,” he said. “I told them, ‘I want to start if you draft me.’ It’s going to take a while to get into this routine, but once I figure it out, hopefully I’ll be pretty successful.”
The Red Sox liked American Heritage School product’s stuff enough to give him a look and with his five pitch mix, they decided to give him a chance doing what he wanted to do. And with the Red Sox being the team he followed growing up, he was ecstatic when they selected him.
“I just knew my hard work over the past three years would pay off,” he reflected. “I was blessed to have a breakout year my junior year and to have been drafted in the third round like that.”
While Anderson only started one game during his Gators career, he did start 11 in summer collegiate baseball in 2014 and 2015. He pitched for both the Lakeshore Chinooks of the Northwoods League and the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League in those summers respectively. In doing so, he both started and relieved games.
“It was kind of nice starting and just getting a different look at the game starting as opposed to relieving,” he said. “I’m definitely taking everything I learned from those and just putting them in my outings every time you go out in pitch.”
With the heavy scouting presence at summer collegiate baseball games, Red Sox scouts likely saw Anderson start games and were convinced he might be capable of doing so in the pros. But they have not rushed him into it and Anderson is thankful for that.
“The coaching staff really takes care of you here and that shouldn’t go unnoticed,” he said. “They really care for your best interest. When I came here, I told them I was ready to pitch. But they decided to build my arm up first and looking back, I’m thankful for that. I definitely trust the process and trust the coaching staff.”
Assigned to the Lowell Spinners (Red Sox short-season A minor league affiliate) on July 3, Anderson did not make his pro debut until July 30. And thus far, he is amid an adjustment period.
In his first two starts, Anderson has lasted 2.2 innings and surrendered nine runs and 12 hits while striking out four batters.
Anderson is quick to admit he has struggled as a starter thus far and part of that may be because for him, the mentality and schedule are not the same as they are in relief.
“In the ninth innings of games, I really wanted to get after some people,” he said. “I definitely bring that mentality when I start games. But when you’re starting, you start fresh. Going into the ninth, all of the pressure is on you and I liked that pressure. It’s definitely a transition when I’m starting.
“I just want to attack the zone early, get ground balls and get outs,” he added. “And I want to throw a scoreless inning.”
Often times, relief pitchers are looking for strikeouts. But Anderson mentioned looking for groundouts — perhaps more of a pitch-to-contact style than before.
While his results might not be the best right now, Anderson is enjoying the opportunity to compete in his newfound role.
“I like the routine so I can get my workouts in and just know when I’m going to throw,” he explained. “I can get my bullpens done accordingly.”
In order to compete at high highest level, Anderson said he eliminated “junk food” from his diet in high school and continues to be health-conscious in his pro career.
“I just try to take care of my body,” he said. “It’s a repetition thing now. I just watch what I eat because you’ve got to take care of your body to perform.”
Tom Joyce is a freelance sports writer in Southeastern Massachusetts. He has covered minor league baseball since 2014.