SAN FRANCISCO -- Few pitching staffs in recent college baseball history have been as decorated as the one Shaun Anderson was part of at the University of Florida. The rotation was so loaded with marquee arms that Anderson was forced to become the closer.
A funny thing happened on the way to the big leagues, though. The Gators' closer was the first to make it to a big league rotation.
Anderson will make his MLB debut on Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays, auditioning for a spot in a Giants rotation that all of a sudden is in transition. He will toe the big league rubber before former Gators A.J. Puk and Dane Dunning, who have been set back by Tommy John surgery, and Alex Faedo and Brady Singer, who are working their way through the minors.
This may all seem like it happened quickly for Anderson, as even a few months ago the Giants were still trying to figure out if he was better served as a starter or reliever. But he has prepared for this opportunity and spent much of his spring talking to veterans about what a big league debut is like.
"They said that when you do get the call, just know that you're on the team now," Anderson said. "You're here to help them win."
Since stealing Anderson in the Eduardo Nuñez deal two years ago, the Giants have always felt the right-hander could help them do that. He has a big arm and a bulldog's demeanor on the mound, and during the spring there were plenty of signs that veterans were ready to bring him into the fold. Buster Posey caught Anderson's first bullpen session of camp, and Madison Bumgarner would good-naturedly call the long-haired young pitcher "Baby Thor" as he walked through the clubhouse.
Anderson kept his head down and impressed in the spring, and then went out and made his way through the landmines of the ridiculously offense-heavy Pacific Coast League. He was averaging more than a strikeout per inning and allowed just three home runs in seven starts. That last stat stood out as management decided to make changes.
"We're shaking up the rotation a little bit so we need someone for that spot," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We had a spot open and he's a guy that's throwing as well as anybody down there, so that's why he's here."
It initially may just be a day in the big leagues, as the Giants have hit the "young man, you have minor league options, so ..." portion of their season. But whether it's now or over the course of the second half, Anderson, 24, will get a long look. The Giants need to find out if he's part of the next contender they build.
They nearly did last year, as Anderson was flown to New York and was all set to start at Citi Field before the team changed plans. The flight this time was much further for his parents, who live in Florida, but they'll be there for his first big league pitch. Well, maybe.
"I heard there's rain coming," Anderson said, smiling.