PHOENIX -- It was a decision that felt so right that A's manager Bob Melvin didn't even have to break the news to the other starting pitchers. On Thursday, Melvin announced that Brett Anderson will be the A's Opening Day starter. Anderson, 25, is the longest tenured starting pitcher on the team.
"We feel that he is the man to lead the staff," Melvin said.
The even-keeled lefty is very reserved and rarely shows much emotion off the field. He lets his pitching do most of the talking.
"He took it in stride, but he was honored," Melvin said. "Every guy aspires to be an Opening Day starter so he was excited… as excited as he gets."
Anderson has a dry but witty sense of humor. He apparently let that show when Melvin gave him the Opening Day news in private. The young pitcher jokingly asked if the skipper would wait to see how he throws in his first Cactus League start before making the big announcement.
"It sounded like he wanted a hug," Anderson said of Melvin. "It's exciting, I'm not going to jump up and down and things like that, it's an honor and you take pride in that and slap yourself on the back and go about your business to be ready."
Anderson didn't do anything on Thursday against the Cubs that would have changed his manager's mind. Anderson was on point as he fired a three up, three down first inning with one strikeout. He came back out and pitched the second only allowing a single. He mixed in his fastball and breaking pitches.
"I was healthy, that was step one," Anderson said. "I could have given up eight runs, or zero like I did, and it would have been a good day as long as I came out of it healthy."
Last season Anderson was 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA in six regular season starts. In 35 innings of work he only allowed just one home run. He also tossed six shutout innings in the American League Division Series. His work on the mound was particularly inspiring because of the 14 months of rehab it took to return after undergoing "Tommy John" surgery in 2011.
"He worked hard to get back and put himself in a position to compete with us at the time of the season when there's no easing into things," Melvin said. "He had to go out there and be good right away, and he was."
The A's were very impressed with how dedicated the young pitcher was toward returning. He took the time away from baseball to completely overhaul his fitness regimen in hopes that it would make him a better pitcher when his arm was ready. The hard work really appeared to have paid off when he went 4-0 and became the first A's pitcher since at least 1918 to allow one earned run of fewer in four starts to begin his season. Being the Opening Day starter is just another feather in his cap.
Anderson broke into the big leagues when he was 21 and threw 175 1/3 innings that season. He was limited to just 38 starts over the next three seasons with four trips to the disabled list. Now in 2013, he finally appears to have his health issues behind him and could be primed to have a big season as the leader of the A's talented pitching staff. Now that he's thrust into a leadership role, it is pretty clear he will choose to lead by example.
"I'm not a big ra-ra guy, obviously," Anderson said. "I'm not going to go out of my way and tell them what to do, but if they do have questions I'm more than happy to answer for them and help them in the best way that I can."
Based on the way the schedule of A's starting pitchers is shaping up this spring, the rest of the starting rotation appears to be set. After Anderson on Opening Day, it will be Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, and Dan Straily. Bartolo Colon will be eligible to return from his 50-game suspension after one turn in the rotation.
That leaves one major thing left to be resolved: Will Melvin eventually get that hug he was seeking?
"If he wants one, I'll give him one," Anderson said. "I'm not going to go out of my way to hug him."
Surely the skipper will happily settle for an Opening Day win from his appointed ace.