OAKLAND -- As advantageous as a healthy Brett Anderson proved to be as a starter in the playoffs last year, the A's believe the lefty's availability out of the bullpen for this year's postseason rematch with the Tigers is equally valuable.
The A's initially hoped Anderson, who was sidelined for four months by a stress fracture in his right foot, could be stretched out as a starter upon his late August return. That never happened, though.
Luckily, the 25-year-old was just as open to the idea of remaining in the bullpen through year's end as his employers were despite having been a starter throughout his entire career. So that's where Oakland's Opening Day starter will be, with a pair of rookies in Sonny Gray (Game 2 of the best-of-five American League Division Series) and Dan Straily (Game 4, if necessary) instead getting starting nods alongside Bartolo Colon and Jarrod Parker.
"I wouldn't say it was a hard sell," manager Bob Melvin said on Wednesday, as his team prepared for Game 1 on Friday (6:30 p.m. PT, TBS). "He wanted to contribute, and he knew that relieving was probably going to be his best option. There were times we tried to stretch him out some. We probably never got him into a position where he could start a game and give us 80 or 90 pitches, but I think moving him around in the bullpen and pitching him in different roles allowed him to adjust to whatever role we put him in, and he is that one guy where there's no set role for him."
Melvin sees that as more of a benefit than a disadvantage, particularly since Anderson throws left-handed.
"He can pitch a couple innings for us, he can match up against a lefty, he can come in in the middle of an inning," Melvin said. "Based on his starting ability and his weapon against right-handers, he can get us through a whole inning. With us moving around a little bit, I think it allows him to be ready for whatever role we use him."
"I have to be ready from the first pitch to the last out," said Anderson, who didn't allow a run in his final two regular-season appearances. "I could be in any situation. A couple hitters here, or it's an inning in the middle or go long if the starter doesn't go long. My stuff kind of plays anywhere, so it's being open to those roles and trying to help the team win."
Anderson struggled greatly against the Tigers this year, allowing 10 earned runs on 13 hits, including three home runs, in 8 2/3 combined innings. Seven of those runs came in 5 2/3 innings in an April start, not too long before it was discovered Anderson was pitching on a bum ankle. Then he faced the Tigers in his first appearance off the disabled list on Aug. 28, allowing three runs in as many innings out of the bullpen.
Considering he could've been pitching with an injury in the first outing and was just coming back from one in his second, that's not exactly a telling sample size. More significant is what Anderson was able to do against the Tigers in a Game 3 start last year: allow only two hits in six scoreless innings in a postseason setting.
"Getting to the postseason last year and getting a test, well, I've been here for a while when we struggled, so just getting there and trying to help us win is a big thing," Anderson said. "Starting is what I've done pretty much up until this point, but now it's about where is the need. Egos go out of the window in the postseason."