Anderson has the look of maturing pitcher
After injury-filled 2010, A's 23-year-old lefty says health is top goal
PHOENIX -- Brett Anderson has long sported the bed-head look and ho-hum mannerisms.
He's a self-proclaimed "boring" person, and he's simply OK with the fact that he'll never be the most glamorous pitcher to grace a big league mound.
"It's inevitable that I'm going to be the dirtiest guy out there because I'm not athletic and fall down," he said. "But as long as I don't get hurt and I get people out, I don't really care what I look like."
This 6-foot-4 A's lefty, who routinely stumbled during starts last year, is simply a rugged 23-year-old who split his childhood days between Texas and Oklahoma, a fast -- albeit soft -- talker who moves at his own pace, does his own thing. During the offseason, he works out in the morning and plays video games in the afternoon -- a routine perhaps reflecting that of a college athlete?
"I never got to go to college," Anderson said, "but I'm doing all the things you'd think college kids would do."
Maybe, except a typical college kid likely isn't extending Spring Break into six weeks, or using that time to prepare for a third season in the Majors as Anderson, a second-round Draft pick out of high school, is doing at the moment.
The A's southpaw is coming off a shortened 2010 season, one that saw him make just 19 starts as a result of two separate DL stints stemming from elbow issues. Those are seemingly resolved now, but they've left Anderson -- who lost 10 pounds this winter -- heeding a new goal entering the 2011 campaign.
"Normally, there are certain things you set out to do or work on," he said, "but none of that really matters if you're not healthy. That's my No. 1 priority this season, to stay healthy. When I've been healthy, I've performed. I had a pretty good first year, and I think that carried over into last year during the times I wasn't injured. So if I'm healthy, I'll throw up decent numbers. I'm focused on making 28 or 32 starts."
Anderson's 2009 rookie year, which saw him go 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA in 30 starts, preceded 2010 numbers that included a 7-6 record, 2.80 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, along with 75 strikeouts next to 22 walks through 112 1/3 innings.
Thirteen of his 19 outings were quality starts, which the A's young arms mastered last year when they turned in 103 of them to lead all of baseball. Of the 103, an Oakland-record 18 came in a row and represented the most since the Braves compiled 21 straight in 1997.
"You don't want to be the guy that screws that up," Anderson said. "Obviously, those guys are performing and you want to be right there along with them. You want to keep that going. If they're doing well, you want to do well. You don't want to be the weak link, so I think that just pushes everyone in a positive way.
"You really don't see that too often, having your one through five guys getting the job done. For all those guys to have a good outing by baseball standards that many times in a row, that's something really special."
A's fans haven't exactly seen something of the special sorts like the trio that is Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez since the glory days of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. Anderson is no stranger to the comparisons of the current A's staff that have recently been drawn to the "Big Three," but, in typical fashion, he takes them in stride.
"It's good to be compared with those guys because of the runs they had going into the playoffs, but we don't really think about that stuff," he said. "I think it's more fun for the media and the fans to do that because they're seeing us from a different perspective. It is fun, though, to hear your name mentioned in the same breath."
Anderson hears not only those comparisons but a handful of other remarks from students of his father, Frank, the head baseball coach at Oklahoma State. They pick his brain about anything and everything related to the big leagues, where he's matured greatly since his days at Stillwater (Okla.) High School.
"Different things in your life change you as a person," he said. "Being in the big leagues does change you, for better or for worse. It's a big part of your life. Going from high school to professional baseball changed me more than anything because you're out of your home at 18 without family and trying to figure things out for yourself and make a living."
Anderson's family watches every one of his starts thanks to the Internet, and his father's nerves are greater than his own during those games, he said. Confidence was Anderson's biggest addition last season, and manager Bob Geren also sees potential improvement in other areas as well.
"Brett had a couple injuries last year, so the big thing is to change his routine between starts to try to keep him healthy and reduce the chance of him getting injured," he said. "We want to see him working on both sides of the plate. Obviously, some guys hit certain spots better than others. We want to try to keep his positives where they are and try to work on his weaknesses. He's a smart guy, so I know he'll continue to make adjustments."