That was probably the thought going through the minds of the Oakland Athletics on March 10, when Brett Anderson left his spring start after throwing just eight pitches with a neck injury suffered on a fielding play at third.
The team’s ace lefty had downplayed the severity of the injury then, and one week later, he put them to rest in a minor league start, throwing 62 pitches over five innings on Sunday.
Sure, he gave up a couple of runs on five hits and four walks, but the biggest test here was to see whether he could take on the workload and get back on pace this spring, and Anderson passed that with flying colours. After having dealt with recovery from Tommy John surgery and an oblique that shortened his comeback in 2012, the ability of the 25-year old to stay on the mound will be more important to the A’s than ever.
After all, the team had unsurprisingly named him the Opening Day starter already, as Anderson is both the longest-tenured and arguably the most talented starter on an A’s rotation that is full of young, talented starters.
That’s saying a lot about how much the team trusts the left-hander, even though he only threw 35 innings in 2012.
Then again, considering that Anderson gave up just two runs out of his first four starts, maybe the Athletics’ trust is well-placed. The Opening Day assignment will be the first of his career, and as the first team is looking to make a strong impression after winning the AL West as vast underdogs last season, it’s not something he’ll take lightly.
He’ll have his work cut out for him between now and then to get ready for it, though. Anderson had only thrown two innings in Cactus League action to this point, and he will have two more opportunities between now and April 1 to sharpen his arsenal and build up stamina (upwards to 90-100 pitches, I’d imagine).
Anderson looked good in his spring debut, allowing just one hit over two innings while striking out one. Should the final two starts not be sufficient for him to start the season (or if there’s a setback), it’s likely that the team will call upon Jarrod Parker, who had a breakout 3.7 fWAR rookie season in 2012.
The A’s wouldn’t want it to come to that, though, and all eyes in camp will be on their ace’s final two outings to make sure he’s on the right track.
If Sunday’s start was any indication, Anderson is well on his way to getting back there.