The speed pitch gun in right field at Blair County Ballpark is about 2 mph slow, so when an 88 pops up there, it's actually 90.
For most of his start Tuesday night, Curve pitcher Tim Alderson was registering 83 to 85 mph on that gun. Add two, and the right-hander was sitting primarily at 85-87 mph.
That has to be discouraging for the pitcher and the Pirates.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Tim?Alderson works during his victory Tuesday night over Akron at Blair County Ballpark.
Alderson is 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, and he was a first-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2007. He's rated as the No. 7 prospect in the Buccos' system by Baseball America.
All of those things just don't add up to a 21-year-old right-hander with Alderson's pedigree hitting such relatively slow speeds. He topped out at 90 once in the first inning Tuesday and hit 89 another time, but pretty much everything else was 85-87.
"When I was an amateur, I threw a lot harder," Alderson said after the start against Akron.
Alderson came to the Pirates last year in a trade with the Giants for second baseman Freddy Sanchez.
He insists there's nothing wrong with his arm, saying, "No, no, I'm feeling good. I've just got to tweak a couple things here and there."
Alderson has a theory on what happened to his fastball.
"I threw a lot of breaking balls my first year with the Giants and last year, and that kind of shortened everything up," he said. "I kind of had a breaking ball delivery. So we're working on that and just trying to get as much extension as possible."
Pirates roving minor league coaches were in town last week and worked with Alderson on his mechanics so he can get better extension with his delivery.
"I don't think it's any concern," Alderson said. "My arm feels good, so I've just got to fix a couple mechanical things. That's what we've been doing this past week with all these coordinators in town."
Curve pitching coach Tom Filer noted, "Everybody would like to see a little bit more fastball coming out of him. He's concerned about it also. But we look at this right now, it's still April, the weather's not very cooperative, and I hope that as the weather gets a little bit warmer that his fastball will warm up, as well."
Alderson has enjoyed great success in his brief pro career, compiling a 25-7 record and 3.43 ERA in 58 games (57 starts). He understands how to keep hitters off balance and did so fairly well Tuesday by mixing in sharp breaking stuff in key situations against the Aeros.
Alderson picked up the win that night, allowing four runs - three earned - on seven hits in five innings to improve to 2-0.
His overall stats this season indicate trouble spots. Alderson has a 5.49 ERA in four starts and has allowed 24 hits in 19 2/3 innings. Opposing batters have hit .312 off him, and he has only seven strikeouts with six walks.
There's a big difference between being somewhat effective with offspeed stuff and an 87 mph fastball in the low minors or Double-A versus getting out major league hitters.
"Right now it's getting guys out," Filer said of Alderson's bottom line. "Velocity is a luxury if you have it, but the main thing is to get people out."
The Pirates do have a way they want their pitching prospects to get people out, and it centers around fastball command. Velocity isn't the most important thing, but the ability to spot the fastball and get good movement on it is paramount.
The Bucs know Alderson may be able to get away with throwing 85-87 in Double-A because of his quality offspeed stuff. But they will be hesitant to move him up the line with that kind of fastball, just as they were hesitant with former Curve pitcher Yoslan Herrera.
"I think to get him to the next level, he's obviously going to have to have some fastball command," Curve manager Matt Walbeck said. "I think that goes for everybody, every pitcher here. But for now, we're just going to take it one step at a time, one start at a time and just have him do the best that he can."
Alderson's primary goal right now is concentrating on finding a reliable delivery that can maximize his fastball, then repeating it consistently.
"I had a couple pitches that came out pretty good," he said after his last start, "so we've got to figure out what I did on that pitch and get back to that."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.