A's tab Anderson to start Opening Day
After strong finish to injury-shortened 2012 campaign, southpaw to face M's
MESA, Ariz. -- A's manager Bob Melvin came to reporters with an announcement Thursday morning, and he did not waste any time delivering it.
"Let's go ahead and say Brett Anderson is our Opening Day starter," Melvin said, smiling.
Anderson first got the word a few days ago, and he recalls expressing contained excitement, while wryly noting that Melvin "sounded like he wanted a hug."
The skipper never got one, but Anderson plans on making up for it on the mound come April 1, when he will face the Mariners at the Oakland Coliseum -- most likely opposed by Felix Hernandez -- to begin the task of defending the club's American League West title.
"I'm not going to jump up and down or anything like that, but it's an honor, and you take pride in that, slap yourself on the back, but then go out there and prepare yourself for that day," Anderson said. "Being a competitive person, you want to be the guy they can go to to win a ballgame, give them a chance to win and pitch against the best in the league. Just for them to have the confidence in you to go out and perform in those situations is big."
Thursday's revelation is not so much surprising as it is rewarding for the 25-year-old Anderson, who is in his fifth season with the A's.
Thrust into a playoff run upon his August return from Tommy John rehab last year, the southpaw responded beautifully, winning his first four starts while posting a minuscule 0.69 ERA and walking just three in 26 innings.
Anderson lost his next two starts and sustained an ill-timed oblique strain, before making a seemingly miraculous comeback in short time to pitch Game 3 of the American League Division Series. He allowed two hits in six scoreless innings in Oakland's 2-0 win over the Tigers, helping to save the team from elimination.
"Based on the guys that we have and how successfully he came back for us last year, we really feel like he's the man to lead the staff," Melvin said. "He worked hard to get back and put himself in a position to compete with us at a time of the season where there's no easing into things. You got to be good right away, and he was. Then he gets hurt, and we think he's done, and he works just as hard to get back and pitch in a playoff game."
Though limited to 38 starts over the last three seasons because of four stints on the disabled list, Anderson finally appears primed to compile at least 30 this year, so long as good health remains on his side. To that end, Anderson put in hours of work to allow for such endurance, shedding 25 pounds during his rehab and keeping off the weight this winter.
"The way I came back last year, having a handful of pretty good starts, hopefully that propels me into the season," he said.
Anderson jokingly asked Melvin if he was sure he wanted to openly announce Opening Day plans without having seen the lefty pitch in a game this year. Turns out it didn't really matter, with Anderson firing seven of his first eight pitches for strikes in a perfect first inning against the Cubs in his spring debut Thursday afternoon. He came out of the second frame unscathed, too, having given up just a hit, and he managed to compile four groundball outs on the day.
Upon exiting, Anderson told reporters that he could have offered up eight runs and still would have been just as content.
"It still would have been a good day, as long as I came out of it healthy," he said. "It was good to get ground balls, early contact."
Anderson is expected to be followed in the rotation by Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily -- all 26 years old or younger. Veteran Bartolo Colon, who still has five games remaining on his drug suspension, is eligible to rejoin the team after the first week of the season.
Whether he does so right away is unclear, but that is for later to decide. On this day, it was all about Anderson.
"I'm my harshest critic," he said, "so I'm going to go out there and put us in the best situation to win."