12/23/2002 2:10 pm ET
Indians sign Brian Anderson
Ohio native returns home with one-year deal
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Brian Anderson will be home for Christmas. And Opening Day.
The Indians filled out their new-look rotation with an old face Monday, signing the veteran left-hander to a one-year contract while inking backup catcher A.J. Hinch to a minor-league deal.
"The lure of the opportunity and coming back to this city, I've always wanted to be a part of the sports scene here," said the native of Geneva, Ohio, east of Cleveland. "I always held in the back of my mind to come back here.
"We looked at all the intangibles and looked at the rebirth of Indians baseball was a bigger lure than the actual money. If the offer was even remotely fair, we were going to consider it."
Anderson, 30, toiled in the Indians' rotation part-time in 1996 and '97 before becoming the second pick in the 1998 expansion draft to the Diamondbacks, where he finally earned the full-time work he wanted. He went 8-2 during Arizona's first playoff season in 1999 and 11-7 in 2000.
His career has come somewhat untracked since then. Anderson has struggled to a 10-20 record the past two seasons, giving up 48 home runs over 289 1/3 innings. His 2002 season ended on a question mark when a Ben Petrick line drive broke a bone in his left foot on Sept. 21. He was cleared to work out as normal Dec. 11 and will have no lingering effects next spring.
Even with the mixed results, he had his moments when his fastball could dominate a game. He struck out a career-high 11 Padres over eight innings of a no-decision last July 28 against San Diego, with the only two runs surrendered coming on homers. The Diamondbacks blew a 4-2 lead in the ninth but came back to win in the 10th. He also won a pivotal Game 4 of the 2001 NLCS at Atlanta with 3 1/3 innings of relief.
Anderson hopes to recapture his success back in his home region. He was the third overall pick in the 1993 draft out of Wright State University in Dayton. The Angels traded him to Cleveland after 40 appearances from 1993-95.
Anderson's roots helped make a pitcher once thought to be out of Cleveland's price range available. Their common goals became evident in a meeting between Anderson, Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge last Tuesday at Jacobs Field.
"Eric and I went through where we are, what we're doing and how important it was for us to have a guy like him in our rotation," Shapiro said. "The only reason a deal like this happened is because Brian made it happen. ... With some people I think it may be a more difficult sell. In Brian's case it was not a difficult sell."
The final selling point for Anderson was the chance Shapiro left open to re-sign him to a longer deal if he pitches well this year. "If I went out and pitched well, I would expect the opportunity to be back there and see this thing through," Anderson said. "They said if I did my job well, there could be a longer-term role for me. That was all I needed to hear."
Anderson's signing gives the Indians the experience GM Mark Shapiro wanted to fill out his rotation. The next key for Anderson will be filling innings. When he's on with his fastball, he's a workhorse; Anderson gave the D-Backs 213 1/3 innings in 2000 and 208 innings two years earlier. His best total in any other year was his 156 innings this past season.
Anderson's arrival follows Jason Bere's signing to a one-year deal last week. The duo will team with young ace C.C. Sabathia atop the rotation, with the remaining two slots going to Cleveland's slew of rookie arms.
"We set as a goal to get two veteran starters in and they had to fit a certain category," Shapiro said. "They had to have a certain level of accomplishment and still be on the upside of their careers and also fit a personal category with their character."
That's perfectly fine with Anderson, a rare combination of 10 seasons of big-league time and a relatively young age. He also has the advantage of spending the past two-plus seasons learning under Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. "That's something I've enjoyed doing, helping young guys who want to learn to break into the league," Anderson said. "In the end, it was too hard to pass up."
Hinch, 28, spent the last two seasons as Kansas City's backup catcher. He hit .249 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs in 72 games this year. He'll compete with Tim Laker in Spring Training for the No. 2 role behind starter Josh Bard.
"He was a guy we felt his premium is his game-calling," Shapiro said. "We've got extensive experience with pitchers who threw to him and said a lot of about him. I think his bat came around a little bit last year."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.