OAKLAND -- Brett Anderson will be the A's opening-night starter Monday.

Not an expected gig for someone who made only six regular-season starts in 2012.

But stepping up to big-time situations is not new to Anderson, a left-hander who has been slowly marching toward stardom for four seasons, a level he probably would have reached if not for injuries.

Anderson made the A's starting rotation in 2009 when he was 21 but didn't get any traction in the first three months of the season, going 4-7 with a 5.45 ERA, and the A's lost five of his first 14 starts.

Oakland Athletics’ Brett Anderson is photographed in Phoenix, Ariz. on Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. (Anda Chu/Staff)
Oakland Athletics' Brett Anderson is photographed in Phoenix, Ariz. on Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. (Anda Chu/Staff) ( ANDA CHU )

Start No. 15 changed everything. It was Nomar Garciaparra's season with the A's, his last season in the major leagues, and on July 6 he made his return to Boston -- where he'd become a star -- following five seasons in the National League. Anderson was starting for the A's that night, but the evening was all about Nomar. Until the game began.

Then it was all about Anderson, who threw a two-hit shutout at a Red Sox team that would finish third in the A.L. in runs, home runs and wins that season. Anderson was the first of only two lefties to shut Boston out at Fenway Park that season.

He pitched 30 games that year, but he has pitched in only 38 games in the three seasons since because of injuries, including the Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery in his left elbow that cost him the second half of the 2011 season and the first four months of 2012.


Advertisement

"I think about it, but not too much," Anderson said. "What's good is that I'm healthy now (he had a bit of a neck problem this spring). I think I'm ready."

The season opener, which will see him matched against 2010 A.L. Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, will be Anderson's first, so he doesn't have too much to compare it to. Or does he?

"I remember what it was like to pitch in the playoffs last year," he said. "I think it'll be that extra feeling."

The A's collectively have that extra feeling when Anderson takes the mound. When Anderson came back last August and won his first four decisions, that was the start of the surge that led to the A.L. West title.

"The first thing you notice as a hitter is the arsenal of pitches he has," center fielder Coco Crisp said. "His track record is solid, and he's been successful coming back from injuries. And that game he pitched in the playoffs, that's the kind of game that gives everyone confidence in what he can do.

"He's a quality starter, and he can be a dominant starter. He has the respect of hitters and of pitchers, and that's tough to do."

The A's are going through their third opening-day starter in three years, and pitching coach Curt Young says Anderson is every bit as capable of leading the rotation as were Trevor Cahill (2011) and Brandon McCarthy (2012).

Young knows a little about pitching the opener. He did it for the A's in 1987.

"He's not a guy who is going to feel too much pressure," Young said. "He's healthy, which is the most important thing, and he has command of four pitches, which is not something most pitchers can say.

"He's definitely the right guy for us. You just have to look at the game he pitched in the playoffs."

Pitching in Game 3 of the playoffs with the A's desperately needing a win, Anderson came back from a hamstring injury to throw six shutout innings and beat the Detroit Tigers.

Manager Bob Melvin said making the call to go with Anderson at the front end of the rotation wasn't a difficult one. He and Young came into spring training believing Anderson was the guy they wanted to go with.

"He's got top of the rotation stuff," Melvin said. "He's not a vocal guy, but I think people will see he's a leader."

Anderson gets his chance to show it starting Monday night.