Former first-rounder Anderson seeks one last chance
After trying to reinvent himself as a pitcher, 31-year-old hopes to get job as outfielder
CHICAGO -- Brian Anderson wants one more chance to prove he's a Major League outfielder.
The native of Tucson, Ariz., who turns 32 on March 11, also understands this one more chance stands as one final chance.
"Ideally, I'm just looking for an opportunity to help someone," Anderson told MLB.com during a recent phone interview. "I'm looking for a team that wants me to come there and possibly earn a fourth-outfielder job and earn my way to more at-bats."
Even that small statement seems to represent possibly an excess of bravado for a player who hasn't roamed a Major League outfield since playing 86 games combined for the Red Sox and White Sox in 2009. In fact, Anderson's most recent comeback came as a pitcher.
Anderson actually recorded fairly solid Minor League numbers on the mound, with 26 strikeouts and 17 hits allowed over 25 innings covering 21 games as part of the Royals' and Yankees' systems. Anderson's last baseball competition came in 2012 with Somerset of the Independent Atlantic League.
Some people might smirk at Anderson's latest comeback attempt, figuring he should pick a position and stick with it by now. Anderson, who believes he has a greater maturity about him and a far greater sense of confidence then he did as a highly touted White Sox prospect and first-time starter going into the '06 season, understands the skeptics.
"I don't blame them. If I were a critic or a fan, I probably would not be too fond of me," Anderson said. "Just go away already and be an insurance salesman. But where I'm at mentally is such a better place than where I was at when I was younger.
"It's not just proving the skeptics wrong because there always will be people who criticize you. It's about proving it to myself as well. I know how I feel mentally and physically, and I'm ready for a nice fresh start."
That fresh start won't happen as a pitcher because Anderson figured it's too late in his baseball life to be completely reinvented. It was actually a heart-to-heart he had with Shelley Duncan, his friend and former Major Leaguer, and encouragement from Andy Lopez, his former coach at the University of Arizona, which pushed Anderson back to the outfield.
Now, the most important question faced by the 15th overall selection in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft is whether any organization wants to take a chance on him. Anderson can't make demands in his current situation, realizing a start in the Minors almost certainly would come before any opportunity to prove his big league mettle.
But he has set at least one limit. Returning to an unaffiliated Independent League, which is one recommendation he received while personally putting out feelers to hook on with a team, isn't a desired option.
"In that case, I would retire," Anderson said. "It's just not for me."
Trying to put a finger on what went wrong originally for Anderson goes back to that mature mental approach more than physical shortcomings. He replaced Aaron Rowand in center field after Rowand was traded to Philadelphia as part of the Jim Thome deal coming off the White Sox 2005 World Series championship season. With an energetic, engaging personality in tow, Anderson had the chance to be a Chicago favorite.
Defense in center never was an issue, as Anderson probably could be the top outfielder strictly with the glove for some big league teams right now. It was a .225 average, a .290 on-base percentage and the difficulty of handling failure for the first time in his life that shut down Anderson in '06.
There also was the idea of Anderson wanting the big league trappings without putting in the necessary all-out commitment to achieve big league success. It's a problem Anderson clearly can see almost one decade later.
"Adjustments and approaches needed to be made, and I didn't do that," Anderson said. "I always had access to the right coaching and coaches who wanted me to succeed, but I was too stubborn to fully commit to making adjustments. That led to my demise and my inconsistency at the plate. I wanted everything that came with the big leagues without having to prove myself."
"Sometimes the brain gets in the way of these kids, and they think they are better than they are at the time," said White Sox director of player development Nick Capra, who worked with Anderson. "He had all kinds of talent, but I don't know how much learning and listening he really did. He's a good kid. He played the [heck] out of the outfield and had bat potential."
A few scouts have watched informal workouts involving Anderson, but Anderson is trying to set up more. He speaks of being in phenomenal physical shape thanks to extensive work put in with Premier Fitness Systems in Scottsdale and feeling great with his current swing incarnation.
Anderson is ready to move on with his life. But not before giving baseball one final try. All he's looking for is one team to take a chance.
"If I go to Spring Training and I don't have it, they won't need to release me," Anderson said. "If I'm embarrassing myself, I'll walk off the field and they'll never see me again. I don't think it's going to happen. I've made adjustments to put me in a better position to succeed at that level."