After TV gig, Anderson makes comeback
Lefty appreciates Rays giving him opportunity to pitch again
ST. PETERSBURG -- In a clubhouse half-filled with players still not old enough to rent a car, 35-year-old Major League veteran Brian Anderson may seem out of place.
But after two Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgeries and a 2007 season spent as a sports broadcaster with SportsTime Ohio, Anderson, who is vying to break back into the Majors with the Rays, feels like a rookie again.
"You get a new appreciation for everything," Anderson said. "Not very often, especially in this game, do you a) get a chance to do it, and b) be as fortunate as I've been to do it for a long time."
After a year-long hiatus to rehab his left shoulder, Anderson's offseason workouts impressed the Rays' staff enough for the club to sign him to a Minor League contract with an invitation to camp. While it is too early to crown Anderson as the comeback king, the southpaw has breezed through initial workouts.
Early reports indicate Anderson is weeks ahead of his projected schedule. He pitched an extended bullpen session on Sunday, and manager Joe Maddon said he has been impressed with Anderson's movement and location. Anderson is tentatively scheduled to pitch an inning Saturday, when the Rays take on the Yankees at Legends Field.
"He's really an interesting guy to have here for us," Maddon said. "His arm is really coming back nicely, and I still think it's going to come back even more. He could be a big surprise."
Even more shocking is how close Anderson came to permanently trading in his spikes for a microphone.
After extensive rehab and grueling preseason preparations, Anderson's January workout for several teams showed the lefty throwing far below Major League speeds.
"I almost didn't come to camp, because I wasn't happy with my velocity, and that caused a lot of teams to back off a little bit," Anderson said.
"But where I do feel fortunate is a team that was willing to take the chance, and these guys were. Tampa stepped up and said, 'We are going to give you time, because we believe your velocity will come back.'"
Although it is impossible to predict how fast Anderson's arm will progress through the final stages of rehab, so far he has been thrilled just to put on a uniform again.
"The first day we moved out here to the new complex [Al Lang Field] and we went out to take batting practice, I'm standing around almost in awe, saying, 'I wasn't really sure if I could ever be out there [again] with a glove shagging before a game,'" Anderson said.
"I'm just kind of taking the time to step back and smell the roses and realize this is a blast."
Maddon has equal praise for Anderson's presence on the young club.
"Brian is one of the better teammates I've ever been around." Maddon said.
"He's got a great shading personality, he's upbeat every day and beyond that, when you get to see him perform, this guy is a tough guy."
Maddon hopes veterans like Anderson and Troy Percival can also help the younger pitchers adjust, a role Anderson takes in stride.
"It's a nice 1-2 punch," Anderson said. "Troy, he's more of the clubhouse policeman. He's going to get on guys and you aren't going to slip anything by him."
"I'm a guy who probably half the clubhouse didn't even know I got signed, so I've just tried to come in and be the guy who has a lot of knowledge and has pitched through the grind of a regular season."
The left-hander, who has a 4.94 career ERA, has worn uniforms for the Angels, Indians, D-backs and Royals. Anderson has twice reached the World Series, earning a ring in 2001 with Arizona.
"It definitley helps [having veterans] especially since B.A. is another lefty for me," reliever J.P. Howell said. "He's a guy with a lot of experience, and we have a lot of fun with the older guys here."
This season, nearly 15 years removed from his Major League debut, Anderson says he still has plenty left in the tank.
"Everything feels good right now, and the goal is to not push it," Anderson said.
"I'm already ahead of schedule, so it's not time to get cavalier, just to stay within the confines and the structure that they put in and keep moving forward."
As for the teams who passed him over, Anderson says he won't waste any energy in worrying about exacting revenge.
"I said at the beginning of all this, 'There's a lot of teams out there, but I only need one team to be interested,'" said Anderson. "And that's where my allegiance lies. I'm thankful for this team bringing me in and believing in me."
Consequently, the lefty's singular focus this season is to reciprocate the favor.
"I want to get to the Major Leagues and I want to help this team win," Anderson said. "We're not here anymore to fill a Major League schedule or to just be competitive. We're here to win."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.