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PHOENIX -- For fans of the Oakland Athletics, watching the team's whirlwind 2012 campaign and historic run to the postseason was a dream come true. For A's pitcher Brett Anderson it wasn't as magical. He was stuck watching for most of the season and dreaming of how he could contribute.
The 25-year-old lefty missed 14 months while recovering from "Tommy John" surgery on his left elbow. As the A's young starting rotation experienced ups and downs, injuries and victories, Anderson kept rehabbing and working toward returning.
On August 21, he took the mound against the Twins and fired seven innings of one-run ball. He would go 4-0 in his first four starts, but end the regular season 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA as an oblique strain sidelined him again. Still feeling pain in his right side, Anderson returned in the postseason for his first career playoff start, twirling six scoreless innings.
With all the troubles behind him, he reported to camp on Monday with a positive outlook, a clean bill of health, and a sense of relief.
"I had a good offseason, just to be a normal baseball player like I am now," Anderson said. "It wasn't rehab-filled and stuff like that. So I did all the things necessary to come in and be healthy and make as many starts as I can."
Instead of being forced to sit by and watch, Anderson has a chance to be a difference maker for the A's starting rotation. Even though he is young, he has been in the league since 2009 and is one of the A's longest tenured players.
"It's crazy; I'm the salty veteran on the staff currently," Anderson joked.
Anderson used the time away from the mound to dedicate himself to physical fitness. He and the A's hope the hard work and new routine will pay off.
"It kind of made me realize you've got to be in shape and do the things necessary to keep you healthy," Anderson said. "It unfortunately takes something like an injury to get it kick started."
"To put himself in position to be where he is now is a testament to how hard he worked and rehabbed," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
If all goes according to plan, Anderson will be considered one of the favorites to take the ball on opening day. A strong contender for that honor will be Jarrod Parker, a guy who knows first hand what Anderson is going through as he returns to pitching full time. Parker had "Tommy John" surgery in 2009.
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"I know that feeling exactly," Parker said. "He pitched the second half awesome last year and I'm sure he's just as ready as anybody to get going and have no restraints, no holding back. I'm sure he feels great. We're glad to have him back at 100%. That's going to be key for us."
Anderson isn't worried about what could be his first opportunity to have the honor of pitching on opening day. He just wants to get his work in, stay healthy and contribute.
"It's good to come in and just be part of the team where you don't have to worry about coming in early and getting out of everyone's way to get your stuff done."
Anderson will get his first official spring training work in Tuesday at Papago Park.