Brett Anderson, acquired in December 2007 from the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of the package for All-Star Dan Haren, has anchored the Oakland A's rotation during his three major league seasons with Oakland. Anderson began his time in the A's chain with the High-A Stockton Ports in 2008 and by Opening Day 2009, he was in the big leagues. As a rookie, Anderson struck-out 150 in his 175.1 innings pitched. In 2010 injuries limited Anderson to only 19 starts for the A's, and he amassed a 1.8 WAR for the season.
Hopes were high for Anderson in 2011, but his season was cut short with a nagging elbow injury that ultimately resulted in Tommy John surgery. Like most Tommy John recipients, Anderson was given a 12-18 month recovery window. Following an offseason rehabilitation program and numerous bullpen sessions/simulated games, Anderson returned to live game action roughly 13 months after his last big league start in Boston.
Anderson's opponent in his first rehab game, the High Desert Mavericks, lead the California League in offense, and proved a decent challenge for Anderson, who battled through his nerves to pitch two relatively solid innings.
Anderson began his evening by inducing a groundball back towards the mound on his second offering and then produced another grounder to second baseman Ryan Pineda for the second out. A fly ball to center ended Anderson's brief first inning, as he retired the side on seven pitches.
The second frame would present a challenge for the lefty, whose first offering was softly tapped into right field for a hit. After a pop-up corralled in foul territory by first baseman A.J. Kirby-Jones and a groundball out to short, the inning got away from Anderson and the Ports a bit. With two away, High Desert's Mike McGee caught-up with an Anderson fastball and walloped it into right-center to score a run. Anderson would then misplay a groundball that came back towards the mound. An infield single would plate a second run before Anderson hit James Jones on his hand on a fastball that curled inside. Anderson would induce a fly-out to prevent any further damage and completed his evening with the following line: 2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 35 pitches (20 strikes), 3 GB/2 FB.
Although the outing wasn't perfect, Anderson appeared optimistic about his future after his performance and viewed his outing as a big step towards returning to his usual form.
"It felt pretty good," Anderson said. "It felt like I hadn't pitched in a game that mattered for about a year. But, it just felt good to get out there. That first inning was about as easy and clean as they come.
"In the second inning I gave up some infield singles and had one bad pitch 3-2 and gave up the double, but for not pitching in a year my arm felt good and it's only getting better. The results will come in time."
Anderson said the outing gave him some peace of mind.
"I can focus on my pitches now instead of my arm health," Anderson said.
"That stuff is kind of secondary now and I can focus on getting back to pitching in the big leagues like I know how. It's going to be a little bit of a process like today, but you know, I'm going to get there."
Rust played a factor in Anderson's outing.
"Everything was a little bit erratic which I thought it was going to be," he said.
"In the first inning, my fastball command was pretty good. My slider was kind-of non-existent today, I threw one good one, quality one, but probably threw 90% fastballs. It was kind of running out of my hand a little bit and jumping more than I'm used to. I got some adrenaline going and it started taking off a little bit."
The rehab appearance coupled with a fireworks night led to a big crowd (4,466 was the announced attendance) at Stockton's Banner Island Ballpark. Anderson said pitching in front of a crowd was another important moment in his rehab.
"I didn't quite have the same amount of adrenaline in my bullpens or in Arizona when there was no one there," Anderson said. "But it's good to get a crowd behind you and face hitters that aren't a part of your organization. It's just one step in the process."
The former supplemental first-round pick has a check-list of things to improve on in his next rehab start.
"My fastball command has been there in my bullpens and stuff, but getting the sharpness in my breaking ball and getting that back to where it's been my bread and butter along with my slider my whole career," Anderson said.
"I need to get my arm strength and hand speed to do what I need to do and that's going to take the longest I think. You know, it's probably 50/50 today and hopefully you can get better and better as I get more rehab starts going."
It had been four years since Anderson last pitched for Stockton, and pitching at Banner Island Ballpark brought back memories.
"It's kind of like déjà vu. I forgot how bad the sun was here in Stockton, you know, the first two innings you just pitch and pray," he said.
"You know, there was a pretty good crowd in Stockton especially with what's happening in Oakland and get some fans down here. It's just the first step in the process, my arm feels good and hopefully it feels good tomorrow so I can go into my next outing and build off of today."
- The Ports would go on to lose the game, 8-3.
- Nate Long, Ian Krol, Pedro Vidal and Zach Thornton all pitched after Anderson. Long struck-out four and Krol tossed two hitless innings with three strike-outs.
- Josh Whitaker hit his 19th homerun. Dusty Robinson doubled twice and Michael Gilmartin had two hits in the loss.