As evidenced by the Washington Nationals steadfast declaration that they will shut down their ace Stephen Strasburg once he reaches the 160 inning mark, teams are downright terrified of working their young hurlers too hard. What the Nationals have decided to do is happening regardless of the fact that the they are steamrolling the NL and may be favorites to reach the World Series this year. Strasburg already has undergone Tommy John surgery since his epic 14K MLB debut, but that seemed to be due to a flaw in his supposed perfect mechanics and not workload. The A’s made a bold decision in the beginning of 2009 when they opted to put young stud starters Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill right into the starting rotation as 21 year olds. That decision may have cost the A’s somewhat in the long run, Brett Anderson went from a fireballing lefty hitting the upper 90’s with his fastball to a lefty with an average fastball and a breaking ball that lacked the bite it once had.
It all came to be as Anderson’s left elbow began bothering him during the 2010 season, he missed significant time then and most A’s fans probably knew what was coming eventually. On June 5th 2011 Anderson took the mound at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox, he pitched 5 innings and allowed 5 ER, and he hasn’t appeared in a game for the Athletics since. Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery soon thereafter and the process of rehabilitation was about to begin.
It has been a fairly smooth recovery from the surgery when you compare it to the struggles witnessed by A’s fans for pitchers Josh Outman and Joey Devine who had the same surgery and took much longer than the normal recovery times. The surplus of starting pitching the A’s have right now made it easy for them to make sure Brett Anderson took his time. That time is just about up though as Anderson is finishing his rehab stint with the Sacramento Rivercats and could make his 2012 A’s debut within the next week or two.
Expectations for Anderson should be tempered as he’s still going to be fine tuning his command and still getting readjusted to pitching in the Major Leagues. I would expect the A’s to refrain from pushing him far beyond the 100 pitch mark in any of his starts. Anderson showed massive potential at times and he’ll recapture that at some point, but perhaps not before 2013 though. For the rest of 2012 though, Brett Anderson will serve as a complimentary piece to a strong but pretty worn down pitching staff. It may turn out that Anderson’s value to the 2012 A’s may come in the fact that he can help take the load off of Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and Dan Straily by making a handful of starts and keeping the A’s in games while he’s at it.