Eight pitches, just eight pitches into Sunday afternoon’s Cactus League contest between the Oakland Athletics and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Phoenix Municipal Stadium we saw Brett Anderson exit the game with an injury. Later reports from Tyler Emerick of MLB.com from the clubhouse confirmed that Brett Anderson had strained his upper trapezius muscle after a collision at third base with outfielder Adam Eaton while attempting to cover the base. Anderson would be dinged with 2 runs, one of them earned, without retiring a batter. But none of that really mattered a single bit, and the A’s eventually won the game anyway.
When all is said and done the primary objective for the established big leaguers such as Anderson is to emerge from Cactus League play unscathed and ready for the regular season grind. The aforementioned reports indicate the expectation is that Anderson will make his next start and no lasting harm has been done, so there is small comfort in that news.
The fact that this happened has to be disconcerting for A’s fans everywhere, as Brett Anderson is expected to be the leader of this pitching staff. Looking at the various projections for the season, not one has him making more than 29 starts this season, and that’s not just by accident.
Anderson returned to the A’s rotation last year coming off Tommy John surgery, which is just about as major as it gets for a pitcher. Surely these projections aren’t predicting that Anderson’s elbow is going to reexplode and put him out of commission for an extended period of time like it did in 2011, they’re predicting that Anderson will miss starts throughout the season for little injuries just like this one.
Many fans have visions of a huge season from Anderson, and foresee him placing himself among the top left handed starters in the American League. While he does have the ability to do just that, it seems that his propensity for small injuries could become a roadblock on his path to elite status. He got himself into the best shape he’s been in since joining the Athletics, and that was expected to put a stop to this kind of thing.
Although it may seem that way, I don’t want to jump to conclusions and overreact to what appears to be a somewhat fluky injury that may not be a reflection at all on his overall health. But, too many times this offseason we’ve heard the name “Brett Anderson” and the phrase “if he can stay healthy” in the same sentence. Far too many times to be able to truly trust the lefty.
The Athletics are stocked in pitching, there’s no doubt about that, but not many teams would be able to withstand the loss of their number one starter. Granted, the A’s did just that last year with the time Brandon McCarthy spent on the shelf with shoulder problems and after his brain injury, but that isn’t the model for sustained success.
This injury reinforces in my mind that the Athletics really need to add another starting pitcher. I discussed the possibility of pursuing Kyle Lohse who remains on the free agent market, or Chris Capuano of the Los Angeles Dodgers via trade a couple days ago (check it out here). Billy Beane may not be doing everything he can to ensure that the Athletics reach their potential in 2013 if he allows the pitching staff to remain as it is this moment. The A’s are about to embark on a season long walk across the tight rope, and as everybody knows, making it across that rope without falling is extremely difficult. The A’s need that safety net to save them if and when they do fall of that rope.