Pitching prospect Tim Alderson has Pirates management excited

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ALTOONA -- At 12, he became the kid none of the others wanted to face from the batter's box -- "A good six inches taller than everyone else," his father said.

As a 16-year-old sophomore, he became a standout on his Arizona high school's pitching staff -- "He turned into a man that year," his high school coach said.

Last week, he became a Pirates' pitching prospect whom everyone seems excited about -- "He has the moxie, he has the wherewithal, he has the stuff," said his new organization's general manager, Neal Huntington.

But from here, what will become of Tim Alderson, the 6-foot-6, 20-year-old right-hander with off-the-charts control and a glut of potential who was traded -- straight up -- from the San Francisco organization for All-Star second baseman and former batting champion Freddy Sanchez?

"I know that I'm excited and honored to be a part of an organization that is committed to taking some younger guys and getting them ready to be winners," said Alderson, who won his debut Saturday for Class AA Altoona. "To know the Pirates had the confidence to make a one-for-one trade like that is something that excites me. It shows they have a lot of confidence in what I can become for them."

There is no question about that.

How could the Pirates not rest a significant part of their pitching future on the former first-round draft pick? After all, he wowed scouts while pitching for Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., compiling a 12-0 record with a 1.05 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 731/3 innings his senior year.

But here are the biggest statistics: He only walked four batters to go along with those 111 strikeouts his senior season and, in three years as his team's ace, he walked just 27.

"I knew he was onto something at the start of his senior season and there were 200 pro and college scouts at one of our games to see him pitch," his high school coach, Eric Kibler, said.

"And then Tim went out and threw 47 straight innings that year without a walk."

Three seasons into his pro career, Alderson's control has continued to be his commanding feature as evidenced by 206 strikeouts and 52 walks in 2522/3 innings.

"That control is what you notice right away, no doubt," said Pirates director of player development Kyle Stark. "The reality is that, from a control standpoint, his numbers are very good."

Sure, there are those numbers, and there is that looming size that you see right away, but perhaps his most stunning attribute is his age: He was born Nov. 3, 1988.

For some perspective, Alderson was on the cusp of turning 4 when the Pirates lost to the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 National League Championship Series on Francisco Cabrera's single to left.

"If you look at him physically, and that he is at this level at 20, obviously, there is excitement. How could there not be?" Altoona pitching coach Dean Treanor said.

"That young, that big and with that much command? You have to be excited for what Tim can become, you just have to be."

That statement revealed the common refrain the baseball men around Alderson all seem to be singing: While he excites us now, there are things he needs to do to get better and then he can really be something.

While that 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame looks as if it should be a power plant, Alderson is not a throw-it-by-you guy. He relies more on a curveball that plummets off the table. His fastball hovers just around 91 mph. It's not what you would expect from someone who stands so tall on the mound.

The reason for some of that is a herky-jerky motion in the second portion of Alderson's delivery, a highly unusual sight even for Treanor, who has instructed pitchers for various organizations since 1988.

In an effort to maximize control, Alderson threw exclusively from the set position, even with no one on, throughout his high school career. He now uses a traditional windup with no one on, but kicks his front leg in an unorthodox way as it nears its landing point.

When Treanor was asked if Alderson is getting all the power possible from his long frame using the unconventional motion, he simply responded, "No."

Asked to expound, Treanor said: "There is some pronounced deception in his delivery and he has had success. But, for a guy that big, we have to see some things, maybe inside that delivery and maybe not, that can help him generate more power."

Alderson was noncommittal on whether he thinks his delivery needs to change: "Maybe. I like what I am doing right now, but I'm always willing to learn."

He did, however, acknowledge the need to develop a changeup if he wants to maximize his potential.

"I need repetitions doing it and have been working on it. It is part of the process and a part of the process that I plan to work really hard at. I know that I have to have a changeup if I want to get to where I want to be."

He declined to guess when he might advance to pitch for the Pirates.

"If you start thinking about that stuff, it will take away from what you are trying to do," Alderson said. "I just show up, no matter where I am pitching, and get myself ready to pitch and then try to get guys out.

"You just have to be prepared and all that other stuff will take care of itself. I'm just excited about the opportunity."

And everyone around the Pirates appears excited about what Alderson could become.

Colin Dunlap can be reached at cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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