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Wednesday, March 24, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Growing Pains -- Ryan Anderson -- M's Young Pitcher Learning To Control His Mouth

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

PEORIA, Ariz. - When Ryan Anderson joins the Mariners for Friday's Kiddie Corps Day, they should see a difference in their young pitching sensation.

Not on the mound. He still throws fire. What they might notice, though, is that he's grown up a bit.

He had a way to go.

"I'm maturing," he said. "I feel it a lot. I said some stupid things in the past and I've learned not to."

When Anderson came on the scene in 1997, with his fastball and his stretch 6-foot-11 frame, he was lauded as the Next Big Unit. "Because of all the talent and hoopla surrounding him when he signed in 1997 and last year when he went to camp with the big club, I think we all forgot that he was a typical 18-year old," said Mike Goff, Seattle director of minor-league instruction.

"Typical" may not be the most apt description for the storkish kid, now 19, who showed equal parts precociousness and braggadocio. Struggling to find his place among the veterans, the man-child misspoke badly when he stated that he had "pretty much dominated" the hitters one day in batting practice early last spring.

Those hitters, including Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner and Ken Griffey Jr., the latter leaving after a handful of pitches, were taking the first swings at live pitching after a winter off. Anderson had been throwing in the bullpen for 10 days.

His comment was not received well by the Mariners, who quickly showed the raw pitcher a rookie's place was one of quiet observation. They rode him hard. One day, they left a case of baseballs next to his locker in mock expectation of getting him to autograph them. "The Dominator," they called him.

Off to his Class A Wisconsin team last summer, Anderson created a name as a hothead, precipitating several off-field altercations that teammates, usually fellow pitcher Gil Meche, tried to help him out of.

A year later, Anderson still stands out. But now, mostly by ability and that awesome frame. "He put on 10 pounds and you don't come close to prospects camp, he got about two-thirds done and collapsed. That made Anderson the butt of many bad jokes, which, everyone noted later, he took well and gave back as best he could.

"He's learned some lessons, some the hard way," Goff said. "But the essential thing is that he's learned them."

That includes baseball lessons. Seattle's minor-league coaches found out that Anderson now has a lot less ego as well. He takes instruction well and applies it.

The result is a pitcher not only expected to deliver a ball in the range of triple digits, but one with a good pickoff move and, for someone of his height, agility and better-than-expected fielding.

"If you didn't watch and know better, the impression you might get is that Ryan is just an undisciplined talent," said Bryan Price, Mariner minor-league pitching coordinator. "He's as polished as any of our other top prospects, in all phases of the job."

In trying to put the high-profile past behind him, Anderson is reluctant at first to acknowledge it was that noticeable.

Asked for the changes he finds in himself, he immediately responds, "Better work ethic. I'm a little more into the game."

And less into himself? Less notoriety?

Slowly, "Yeah."

He is much more eager to talk of his advances as a performer, referring to trying to work ahead in the count (he was behind only the first of seven batters in the Class AA game Monday), in throwing his notable curveball for strikes and throwing it at any time, and of the changeup he has been developing.

"I'm trying to be smooth, build my arm strength up and not rush," he said. "I'm just trying to do the job."

The first true test will come Friday, when he is scheduled to start and pitch three innings against the major-league Chicago Cubs.

The results may be less impressive than they were against the Cubs' Class AA West Tennessee club on Monday. They were a nice collection of minor-league and former collegiate all-stars, but they were not the big-leaguers.

Getting a feel for games, Anderson allowed two singles to the first three batters he faced, picking one off first base.

Then, oh, baby! Anderson went to full throttle, fanning the final batter of that inning and totally eradicating the Cubs in the second inning. Anderson struck out all three. He hit 97 mph but worked at 93-94; and of his 11 pitches, 10 were strikes, including two breaking balls and a changeup.

If Anderson is not overwhelmed trying to overthrow, his talent is awesome.

"Ryan could come pretty quickly," Looper said. "He's developing nicely, really. You know all about his fastball, but his curve is turning into the kind that Randy (Johnson) used to throw, coming low and in to right-handed batters and nearly hitting them in the back foot.

"We're glad to have him go and pitch this game, but we don't want Lou to see too much of him."

Manager Lou Piniella already knows of Anderson and already has suggested he may be closer to pitching in the big leagues than many people want. Seattle's minor-league development people shudder at losing Anderson too quickly.

Roger Jongewaard, vice president of scouting and player development, laughs at the idea of having to go toe-to-toe with Piniella. "We could wind up in a debate about it," he said.

When the Cactus League appearance was brought up, Anderson grinned broadly. He says he is excited, rather than concerned, about being back with the Mariners, who were so derisive of everything but his ability last spring.

And the derision lingers. The one time he saw Anderson this spring, Griffey was calling him to him, "Hey, Dominator! Hey, Dominator!"

"Really?" said Anderson, who had not stopped while walking by Griffey. "I didn't hear him."

That is either the truth or a lesson learned.

NOTES

-- Brad Seitzer, a third baseman and younger brother of former major-leaguer Kevin Seitzer, was among six players re-assigned to the Mariners' minor league camp today. Seitzer, 29, hit .300 with 14 homers and 68 RBI in 129 games for Triple-A Tacoma last season.

Also re-assigned were middle infielder Francisco Matos, outfielder Earl Johnson, catcher Justin Towle and left-handers Mike Bertotti and Huck Flener. All were non-roster players.

MARINER SPRING STATISTICS (Through Monday)

Batters AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI . Bass .000 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 . Bell .333 54 12 18 4 0 4 15 . Brown .500 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 . J. Buhner .310 29 6 9 2 0 3 10 . S. Buhner .286 7 0 2 0 0 0 1 . Chavez .462 13 5 6 0 0 0 2 . Davis .357 42 8 15 1 0 5 11 . Gipson .294 34 4 10 2 1 0 5 . Griffey .317 41 8 13 1 0 3 9 . Guevara .250 16 4 4 2 0 0 4 . Guillen .385 52 9 20 5 0 0 8 . Hargrove .000 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 . Hills .000 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 . Huskey .340 50 9 17 3 0 2 4 . Ibanez .265 34 8 9 0 0 1 3 . Johnson .412 17 7 7 1 0 1 2 . Lampkin .261 23 7 6 2 1 0 4 . Lopez .000 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 . Mabry .262 42 11 11 1 0 2 7 . Maldonado .000 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 . Martinez .286 35 4 10 2 0 1 12 . Matos .333 12 2 4 1 1 0 0 . Mieske .267 30 2 8 1 0 1 9 . Monahan .265 34 6 9 2 1 2 5 . Radmanovich1.000 1 2 1 1 0 0 1 . Robinson .000 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 . Rodriguez .395 43 10 17 2 0 3 8 . Sachse .000 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 . Segui .143 21 4 3 0 0 0 2 . Seitzer .542 24 9 13 3 0 0 5 . Timmons .500 14 5 7 2 0 1 5 . Towle .000 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 . Wilson .367 30 5 11 2 0 1 9 .

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. Pitchers W-L ERA IP H R ER BB SO . Ayala 0-1 2.00 9.0 13 8 2 4 10 . Bertotti 0-0 3.00 3.0 2 4 1 3 2 . Carmona 0-0 2.08 4.1 5 1 1 1 2 . Cloude 0-2 10.4 13.0 24 15 15 6 3 . De La Rosa 0-0 27.0 1.0 3 3 3 3 2 . Fassero 2-0 1.00 9.0 8 1 1 0 7 . Flener 0-0 0.00 4.0 1 0 0 1 0 . Garcia 3-0 3.38 10.2 12 4 4 4 10 . Halama 1-1 3.46 13.0 13 8 5 5 6 . Henry 1-0 7.36 11.0 15 9 9 3 1 . Hinchcliffe 0-0 0.00 7.0 3 0 0 3 1 . Hoshino 0-1 27.0 2.2 10 8 8 1 4 . Kroon 0-0 0.00 1.0 1 0 0 1 0 . Leiter 1-0 2.70 10.0 9 3 3 5 9 . Marte 0-0 4.50 2.0 2 1 1 1 0 . McCarthy 0-1 11.5 4.2 9 6 6 6 6 . Mesa 0-0 1.00 11.0 10 1 1 3 7 . Moore 0-0 0.00 2.0 1 0 0 3 1 . Moyer 3-0 2.57 14.0 17 5 4 0 10 . Paniagua 1-0 1.23 7.1 4 2 1 7 12 . Pineiro 0-0 4.50 2.0 5 1 1 0 2 . Scheffer 0-0 0.00 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 . Spencer 0-0 9.00 1.0 1 1 1 1 0 . Stark 0-0 0.00 1.0 2 0 0 1 0 . Suzuki 0-1 9.64 9.1 10 10 10 8 6 . Swift 0-0 9.00 7.0 10 7 7 5 5 . Ulloa 0-0 9.00 1.0 2 1 1 0 0 . Weaver 1-0 2.61 10.1 15 3 3 1 8 . Zimmerman 0-0 2.45 3.2 2 1 1 4 2 .

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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