OAKLAND — Brett Anderson could hardly be happier about returning to the postseason, even if it’s in a much different role than he’s accustomed to with the Oakland Athletics.
Nearly a year after starting Game 3 of the 2012 division series, and six months after getting the ball on opening day, Anderson will be in the bullpen when Oakland hosts the Detroit Tigers in the AL playoffs beginning Friday.
“I have to be ready from the first pitch to the last out,” Anderson said following the A’s workout Wednesday. “I could be in any situation. My stuff kind of plays anywhere, so it’s being open to those roles and trying to help the team win.”
It’s not a brand-new job for Anderson.
The left-hander has been pitching in relief for the AL West champions since returning from the disabled list in late August after missing more than four months with a sprained ankle and stress fracture in his right foot.
His numbers as a reliever are actually better than they were as a starter.
In five starts, Anderson went 1-4 with a 7.23 ERA. As a reliever, he had three saves and 22 strikeouts over 21 innings with a 4.71 ERA.
With the A’s hoping to make a deep run in the postseason, Anderson is content taking another shot at a World Series ring no matter what his role.
“Starting is what I’ve done pretty much up until this point but now it’s, where is the need?” Anderson said. “Egos go out of the window in the postseason.”
That was the type of response A’s manager Bob Melvin was hoping for after leaving Anderson’s name off the list when he announced Oakland’s starting rotation for the best-of-five series with the Tigers.
Bartolo Colon will pitch Game 1, rookie Sonny Gray goes in Game 2 and Jarrod Parker will start Game 3, while Anderson could conceivably pitch in all three.
“He wanted to contribute, and he knew that was probably going to be his best option,” Melvin said. “He is that one guy where there’s no set role for him. He can pitch a couple innings for us, he can match up against a lefty. It allows him to be ready for whatever role we use him in.”
It hasn’t always been an easy adjustment for Anderson to make.
As a starter, he prepared himself to pitch every five days. As a reliever, he has to be ready to go at any given moment.
“It’s more of like an everyday player’s mentality,” Anderson said. “As a starter you get three or four days to think about it — good, bad or otherwise. As a bullpen guy, especially with the role that I’m in, I could be there in the second inning, I could be there in the sixth inning or I could be there in the eighth inning.”
Melvin has been very methodical and regimented about how he’s used his relievers when trying to protect a lead. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook have excelled as setup men for closer Grant Balfour, who had a career-high 38 saves during the regular season.
That trio worked very well for Oakland and was a key factor in the team’s ability to win the AL West for a second straight season.
Anderson isn’t likely to bump any of those three pitchers out of their spots, but he does give the A’s some much-needed flexibility in the bullpen.
“He can come in and pitch the seventh, eighth or ninth, or he could be used in a one-inning role late in the game,” Doolittle said. “The versatility he can give us, it’s definitely an asset. He just wants to be out there and help.
“That sums up our team. Whatever roles guys are told they’re going to be in, they embrace it rather than complain.”