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Anderson Forged in Series fire

By Bob Cohn

The Arizona Republic

Nov. 19, 1997

The Diamondbacks, an organization that stresses character and role-model behavior, used its first expansion-draft pick on a pitcher who sports six "strategically placed" tattoos and who, in response to being asked why he wore short sleeves on a bitterly cold night, responded, "I'm an idiot."

But now some context on 25-year-old Brian Anderson:

First, he's a left-hander, which might explain some things. And the freezing night in question was in Cleveland, during the World Series. Anderson was pitching in it. Pitching pretty well, in fact, although the Indians would lose to the Florida Marlins in seven games.

Anderson also was effective in the American League championship series against Baltimore. A starter by trade, he pitched 10 solid innings in relief during the postseason, going 1-0 with a save and a 1.80 ERA. None of this was lost on the Diamondbacks' brass.

"We liked the fact that, at a very early age, he's been through the fire," Diamondbacks General Manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said.

"He pitched in the biggest kind of games you can pitch in as a big-leaguer. This is somebody who, at a very young age, we don't think will be overawed when pitching in our ballpark in front of 48,000 people."

Anderson was left off the roster for the division series against New York and admitted he was "bummed out." But he came back strong.

"It helped me a great deal," he said of his postseason work. "You don't get any more pressure than a World Series. You realize when you pitch in the postseason how much you have in your gas tank. You realize how far you have to take it. Then you take that experience and plug it in."

Anderson was speaking Tuesday from the trainer's room at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, his alma mater. Later, he would be honored at a basketball game against Old Dominion.

Anderson is an Ohio kid, a native of Geneva, a town of about 6,700 located 45 minutes from Cleveland and known as the home of the Grape Jamboree and the birthplace of R.E. Olds, who founded the Oldsmobile car company. When Anderson was traded by the California Angels to the Indians in February 1996, it was a homecoming.

Last season was the ultimate, pitching in the World Series for his favorite team. No wonder, then, it was a bit unsettling to learn that the Indians left him unprotected. He told a Cleveland newspaper the other day, "I can't say I'm too happy about this. When I came back home, I wanted to finish my career here. It would be a sad way to leave town."

But Anderson said his disappointment turned to "mixed feelings" and, by Tuesday, to pure enthusiasm. He said he was so pumped up, he might get another tattoo, "a big A in the middle of my back."

Why the change?

"I thought I'd get protected," he said. "That was all the talk during the World Series. Staying at home and being part of the hometown organization was a big thrill. Then I found out I wasn't protected. But my pride says, 'If you left me unprotected, I'll make you pay for it.'

"It was bittersweet, but it was nice to know Arizona felt so strongly about me. It started to sink in, and the more I talked to people -- my agent and baseball people -- the more I heard what a first-class organization it is. Everyone thinks they're going in the right direction."

In four seasons with the Angels and Indians, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Anderson has a 20-16 record and a 5.25 ERA. Although tendinitis in his left shoulder has flared up at times, Anderson was 11-3 at Cleveland and Triple-A Buffalo in 1997 and proved he was sound during the post-season.

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