Tim Alderson's fastball has returned, and now he's getting ready to return to the Curve's starting rotation for the first time in two years.
Alderson had a tough day Wednesday in suffering a loss against Bowie, but he had been superb out of Altoona's bullpen until then. He didn't allow a run in his first 13 innings this season and gave up just eight hits and four walks to go along with 14 strikeouts.
The Pirates moved Alderson to the Curve bullpen in 2011 to help him resurrect his career after a disastrous 2010 season. The former first-round draft pick had been a starter his entire life, and the Bucs want to see if his success as a reliever will translate when he goes back into the rotation.
It's not clear if Alderson will switch roles immediately or stay in the bullpen for one or two more outings.
"We're still kind of in the decision making on that, but yeah, I think [him becoming a starter is] going to happen," Curve pitching coach Jeff Johnson said.
The plan Wednesday was to get Alderson extended so he could make the move to the rotation, and he threw 58 pitches over three innings. Johnson said that should be enough to think Alderson could last at least five innings his next time out if the decision is made to make the switch now.
How did Tim Alderson get his fastball back this season? Check Sunday's Mirror for a detailed look at the process he went through to increase his velocity.
"He's always wanted to start, and talking to him, I think that's still an option and we'll explore that going forward," manager P.J. Forbes said.
Alderson has his fastball back up to 92 mph, where it was in 2009 when the Pirates got him from the San Francisco Giants in a trade for second baseman Freddy Sanchez. His fastball mysteriously dipped into the 85-87 mph range in 2010, and it's taken him until this year to regain the velocity.
Alderson also throws a sharp curveball, but the Curve coaches believe he will need a third pitch to be effective as a starter.
"We may work on different things," Johnson said. "A slider has been discussed, changeup's been discussed, and I think we're going to investigate that as he evolves. Once he gets into a rotation role, he'll need another pitch, so that's part of the process."