The biggest open secret in A’s camp is a secret no more.
Brett Anderson will be the A’s opening day starter, and as his reward the left-hander gets a Game 1 matchup with Seattle ace Felix Hernandez April 1 in the Coliseum.
Anderson, who pitches today in Mesa against the Cubs in his first spring start, has known about it for a couple of days, and all of the other starters had been assuming the 25-year-old would be the man. He is, after all, the only one of the eligible candidates who wasn’t a rookie last year.
And while he only pitched in six games in 2012 year, those were six games in the heat of a pennant race after coming back from Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery.
“We think he will be successful for us,’’ manager Bob Melvin said in making the announcement. “We feel he’s the man to lead off for us.’’
Anderson, picked up in the Dan Haren trade with the Diamondbacks back in 2007, stepped into the fire of the pennant race and went 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA, and with a little offensive support could have won at least once more. He was backed by a total of just two runs in his two losses.
Although Anderson said he’s feeling good now after a full winter off, he was feeling some pain in the playoff when he went out to face the Tigers and shut down one of the most dangerous offenses in baseball on just two hits and two walks in six innings.
It was perhaps the most pressure-packed game of the season for Oakland, which won the American League West title on the last day of the season, then lost the first two games on the road in Detroit. Anderson set things right.
“We knew in that game that six innings was as far as he could go,’’ Melvin said. “Then he goes out and throws an easy sixth inning, his easiest of the game, and he’s there arguing that we let him go out for the seventh.’’
Anderson didn’t win that argument, but he’d made his point. It was that kind of competitiveness that put him in position to start the opener with the men who opened the season the last two years, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy, now both pitching for Arizona.
Asked about the best assets that Anderson brings to the game, Melvin didn’t have to dig deep.
“For me, it’s a tie,’’ the manager said. “For one, it’s his competitiveness. And second, it’s his stuff. Out of uniform if you met him, just to look at him, you would never guess how competitive he is.
“And he throws hard. He can turn sliders into curves. He can get the ball to the back foot of right-handed hitters, and he can (throw a) back door (slider) to right-handers.’’
Bob Welch, who won 27 games and the 1990 Cy Young Award for the A’s, has been in camp as an instructor, and he said Anderson has come up to him, picking his brain for how to improve his game.
“He’s one of those guys who wants to know everything,’’ Welch said. “And he’s got terrific stuff.’’
That attitude was echoed by Melvin.
“Each and every day he’s here trying to make himself better,’’ the manager said. “He’s not intimidated by anything. He certainly wasn’t intimidated pitching in the playoffs.’’