Era Over: Mariners release Ryan Anderson

When the Mariners used their first pick of the 1997 draft (19th overall) to select Ryan Anderson, a towering left-handed high school kid with a mid-90s fastball, the common sentiment was that he'd one day be the ace of Mariners' pitching staff. Monday, nearly eight years later, the Mariners released the oft-injured southpaw. Anderson never pitched in a regular season game for Seattle.

Monday was a day many feared for a long time. With all the hype surrounding Anderson, including the unavoidable comparisons to Randy Johnson that led to the nickname "The Little Unit," the Mariners did their best to give the 6-10 lefty every chance they could.

Originally a cocky, immature teennager in his early days in the organization, Anderson began his pro career at Wisconsin in 1998 and found immediate success on the mound. He moved up to Double-A New Haven in 1999 before joining Triple-A Tacoma in 2000. While not overly impressive as far as wins and losses was concerned, his incredible strikeout totals made him the Mariners top prospect for four seasons straight.

He had work to do as far as his control went. He had some improvement to make on his offspeed pitches. He had to continue to gain maturity on and off the field. But by all accounts, Anderson appeared to be well on his way.

On April 2, 2000, the 20-year-old Anderson took the mound at Safeco Field for the first time in an exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies. He impressed that day, limiting the Phils offensively and showing a promising glimpse of what was likely to come in the near future.

It was the only time he'd ever take the mound in Seattle, sadly, something few could have predicted when Anderson was named by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Pacific Coast League at the end of that 2000 season.

Who could have predicted the devastating road Anderson would take from that point on? If it wasn't one injury, it was another. He missed all of 2001 to recover from a torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder, an injury that occured early that spring. A year later, it was another career-threatening injury, this time a torn labrum in the same left shoulder. The labrum forced Anderson to miss 2002 and 2003.

By the start of 2004, the M's designated Anderson for assignment in an effort to remove him from the 40-man roster. Though left exposed for any other of the 29 major league teams, he went unclaimed and the Mariners resigned the lefty to a minor league contract.

But Anderson never pitched in a game in 2004, missing the entire season while rehabbing the labrum surgery from two years early.

To the Mariners credit, they tried everything they could with Anderson. They were patient with his immaturity in his teenage years. They kept faith after his first injury. They tried to convert him into a reliever to take the load off his left arm. They tried to alter his throwing motion. They resigned him when nobody else would. They tried everything. But at some point, Anderson's arm had to respond. It never did.

Monday, after four frustrating years for both parties, the Mariners gave up on the hope of having Ryan Anderson be a part of their future.

Anderson's Mariner career comes to a close with him having pitched in only three of the seven seasons he was a member of the organization.

Joe Kaiser can be reached at joekaiser@insidethepark.com.

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