It's been a long, difficult journey for Tim Alderson, but he finally has regained his velocity and perhaps resurrected his career.
Alderson on Thursday was promoted to Triple-A for the first time in his career, and he turned in a strong performance with three shutout innings for Indianapolis. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out three, walked one and allowed one hit against Columbus.
Alderson had been throwing 90-03 mph every time out in his four appearances for the Curve, pitching coach Jeff Johnson said. He pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up four hits while striking out eight and walking one.
Alderson, a former first-round pick, was traded by the Giants to the Pirates straight up for Freddy Sanchez in 2009. A year later, however, his velocity inexplicably dropped from 92 mph down to the 85-87 mph range during a dismal season with the Curve and high-A Bradenton.
Alderson moved to the bullpen and was better in 2011 for Altoona, posting a 4.12 ERA in 42 appearances, but his velocity still didn't come all the way back. So this year, the Pirates decided to let him try a different approach.
"He did it all himself," Johnson said. "His long-toss program, he kind of managed that himself, told me what he wanted to do, and I said, 'Go do it.' We did it as an organization, let him do what he thought he needed to do from that standpoint, and it's worked."
Johnson said Alderson likes to "throw the ball further" every day than the Pirates typically teach, and he believes allowing him to do that "helped his velocity come back."
"You have to make exceptions. They're individuals," Johnson said of the development procedures. "We had him a little bit in the box to start with as far as learning the program, making sure he understood what we were trying to get him to do. And once they do that -- they understand what our core philosophies are -- you've got to let them out."
With a 90-93 mph fastball and sharp curveball, Johnson predicted Alderson can have success at the higher levels as long as he shows good command.