Oakland A's Off-Season Q&A: Brett Anderson, P

Brett Anderson had a 2008 season for the memory books. Starting the year with a new organization, Anderson helped two minor league affiliates win league titles and Team USA win a bronze medal. Along the way, he put up great numbers and cemented his status as one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball. We spoke to Anderson about his hectic season and more...

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OaklandClubhouse: It must be nice to be home after a hectic year. What have the last 12 months been like, starting with the trade and then all of the places you have ended up since then?

Brett Anderson: It's been crazy. As you said, it has been nice to be home. It has been a whirlwind ride, starting with the trade. You never know what to expect with a trade, especially with it being so early in my career. To be only a year into to my career and be traded for Danny Haren, a Cy Young candidate and one of the top 10 or 15 pitchers in baseball right now, was pretty crazy. But I definitely think it worked out for both sides. We had something like four guys make it to the big leagues with the A's this year from that trade and Haren had a great year for the Diamondbacks, so I think it has worked out for both teams.

As far as the season goes, starting off with Stockton, I started off putting up some good numbers early and felt pretty good, and then I kind of had a rough patch in the middle with my thumb, but then started pitching better after that healed. I was then fortune enough to get called up to Double-A and pitched well in a few starts there before heading to New York City for the Futures Game, which was a lot of fun. I had never been to New York City before, so that was one of those ‘once in a lifetime things,' especially to pitch in one of the last games at Yankee Stadium. I'll never forget running in from the bullpen and pitching an inning there, albeit not the most prototypical inning, getting two pick-offs. [laughs] But I'll take a scoreless inning however I can get it.

Then I think I went back [to Midland] to make two more starts before heading off to the Olympics and getting a medal. That experience, obviously, was unbelievable. I'll probably never get to do something like that ever again and it is something I'll never forget. My dad was able to go over there with me and we got to see some sites together. And being around some of the best athletes in the world, like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and some of those guys, for three weeks was just unbelievable.

I then came back and finished up the year with Midland, thinking I was going to be going home, when I got the call into the office that I would be heading to Sacramento [for the PCL playoffs]. I was fortunate enough to help Sacramento in the playoffs. I had kind of a rough appearance in my first outing, but then I had two pretty good starts and was fortunate enough to come away with a PCL and a Bricktown Showdown title. That was kind of icing on the cake as far as the year goes. Everyone gives me a hard time that I am kind of blinged out because I have a couple of rings from Stockton and Sacramento and then a medal. [laughs] It's been a whirlwind ride this year, but I have enjoyed every second of it.

OC: I know it was only a taste of it, but were you able to get a sense of what the level of competition was like at Triple-A in comparison to what you saw at Double-A or at the Olympics?

BA: Going in, you never know what to expect, but [the level of competition] is comparable. I think that pitching at Double-A and then in the Olympics got me prepared for Triple-A a little bit. In my first game with Sacramento against Salt Lake, I actually threw against Matt Brown, who I had just finished playing with at the Olympics, so I knew going in how the hitters were going to be, a little bit. I think it was definitely beneficial to go do some of those things, but you can't really judge how it is going to be until you actually do it. Like I said, I kind of got my feet wet in my first outing relieving Sean Gallagher and then I had two fairly strong starts against Oklahoma City – one in Sacramento and one in Oklahoma City.

OC: You're from around that Oklahoma City area, right?

BA: Yeah, Stillwater is just about 45 minutes away from Oklahoma City, so there really couldn't have been a better place to end the season.

OC: What was it like to pitch in front of family and friends in that last game?

BA: It was awesome. I didn't get to pitch at Tulsa this year [in Double-A] because I was either at the Futures Game or the Olympics, so it was good for my family and friends to come down and to be able to see me pitch, especially in an environment like that in the playoffs, especially in the clinching game.

OC: You were on the mound for the bronze medal game. When you guys won that game and you knew that you were going to take home a medal and get to stand on that podium, what did that feel like for you and for the team?

BA: It was great. As you are pitching in the game, you don't really know that whole aspect of it as it is going on. You have to treat it like just another baseball game with a little bit more at stake. But once we were at the Olympic ceremony and there was an Olympic medal around my neck, it kind of hit home that I had just won an Olympic medal. Especially it being so early in my career and being so young, it is kind of tough to take in the whole aspect of it, but it was an awesome experience getting an Olympic medal, especially to be able to do it with one of your friends [Trevor Cahill, fellow A's pitching prospect] who is your age, it's an unbelievable experience.

OC: What was the Opening Ceremony like? Getting to see it on TV was amazing. I can't imagine what it must have been like to be in the arena.

BA: It was one of those moments where it kind of hit home that we were in the Olympics. With 500 or 600 US athletes chanting "USA," it kind of hits home that you are representing your country in a foreign country and it kind of put a deeper meaning to it. It is something that I'll never forget. Walking into the stadium with 100,000 people and seeing the torch lit was something that I will remember forever.

OC: Were you able to add to your pitching repertoire this year, or are you still throwing the same pitches as you were at the start of the season?

BA: A little bit. I threw a lot more change-ups this year as I advanced up into the higher levels. I threw quite a lot of them in Double-A and then I threw a bunch in Triple-A in my two starts there. I think that was very beneficial because I hadn't thrown too many change-ups in the lower levels in my first year and then I didn't throw that many in High-A again this year. I think as I progress, it will be another pitch that I can add and throw to right-handers and kind of keep them off-balance from my fastballs and breaking balls.

OC: Was there a point in the season that you really felt like you were clicking on all cylinders? Was it after you had recovered from the thumb injury, or was it a different point?

BA: Yeah, I think right after I recovered from my thumb injury, I had three or four solid starts at High-A and then I moved up to Double-A and I think I struck out 12 in my debut. I had some good starts after that. I think that is when I felt the most comfortable. It's been such a crazy season, it has been hard to get into that routine. Whenever you are going from New York City to Midland, Texas, to Beijing, it's hard to have a routine, but it is something I wouldn't have traded for the world. I think that middle part of the season, just before and after the All-Star break, was when I felt the most comfortable.

OC: When you were out on the mound of a big league stadium like Yankee Stadium that has such history, did it change your perspective at all when you were pitching?

BA: A little bit. I don't think I was nervous. I was kind of hyped up, and I had a lot of emotions running through me. I think it was one of the first times in my life that I was throwing too hard. I walked a guy and fell behind a guy and gave up a single. Like I said, I was fortunate enough to get two pickoffs in one inning. I don't think I have ever done that before. It was kind of crazy to do that for the first time on national television. I think emotions kind of played into that inning a little bit. I was probably over-analyzing things a little bit. But it was a lot of fun.

To have the opportunity to go there and throw for one inning and lay it all out on the line was great and something I'll never forget. Yankee Stadium was unbelievable. I went out to Monument Park and got to see some of those things and then to be in the locker-room and the dugout was unbelievable.

OC: Did you send a text message to Greg Smith to let him know that you were narrowing in on his pick-off record?

BA: That's what someone else said. [laughs] It was definitely great for me to see him in Spring Training and watch his pick-off move. He's got a great move. I'm sure he picked off a ton of guys this season, I know he did last season with the Diamondbacks. He's got one of the best moves in the game, so anything I can pick up from him is pretty good.

OC: Were there big differences between the two organizations, or was it pretty consistent what you were able to take over from Arizona when you arrived with Oakland?

BA: It's pretty consistent. It wasn't too big of a jump. I think the A's fit my personality really well. It's pretty laid back and if you are having success, they don't mess with you too much. I like that a lot and, like I said, it fits my personality because I am a pretty laid back guy. I like to go with the flow and stuff like that. The Diamondbacks are a little bit more intense. They kind of wanted to change some things. But the A's have been good so far just letting me go out there and pitch with some encouraging tips and stuff like that. But I haven't had to change too much, so it has been good so far.

OC: Is it hard to block it out when publications like ESPN are talking about you as a top prospect or talking about you and Trevor Cahill moving up together as a top tandem? Or do you just focus on your next start and ignore that stuff?

BA: A little bit of both. I kind of knew who Trevor was before the trade because we both had success in the Midwest League last year and he put up great numbers there. I didn't really know him personally until this year, but we've developed a friendly rivalry. With the past two or three things that we have done together, I told him that I think we are going to be put together for the rest of our careers [comparison-wise] because of this season and all of the different things that we got to do together [play for Stockton and Midland and in the Futures Game and in the Olympics]. It's been fun. I'll give him a hard time because one publication will say that he is a better prospect than me and then another will say that I'm a better prospect than him. But you can't really look at it like that. We joke around about it. I think he was the Oakland A's pitcher of the year this season, so I was giving him a hard time about that. But it is all in good fun.

During the season, when you are starting, you block out all of that stuff, but whenever we see that when we aren't starting, we'll kind of have a friendly rivalry and give each other a hard time about it. But it's all fun.

OC: At the end of the year, did you still feel pretty fresh or were you tired?

BA: A little bit of both. I was probably more mentally tired just because of all of the travel that I had to do this year. My arm felt fine and I threw some good games at the end, like I said. It's always good to go into the off-season and have a break. I could have gone on if they asked me to. They had asked me to go to Instructs before I moved up to Sacramento, but I wound-up throwing enough innings with them for the A's to shut me down. But either way would have been fine. I wasn't too tired.

OC: Is there anything that you are going to be taking with you into Spring Training that you learned this year?

BA: Just trying to build off of the momentum of this season. It was kind of a hectic year this year, so I don't really know what to expect next season. We'll have to see what happens. I want to continue to develop my change-up and improve my fastball command. I just want to have fun with it and go to Spring Training and we'll see what happens.

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