Brett Anderson is close.
Whether he makes one or two more rehabilitation starts with Triple-A Sacramento or joins Oakland's rotation as early as next week, the Stillwater product is close to returning to the majors 13 months after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery.
Making his fifth rehab start, Anderson tossed six shutout innings in the Rivercats' 3-0 win over the RedHawks Friday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
On a 90-pitch limit, Anderson threw 80. He limited Oklahoma City to three hits, striking out four with one walk. His final hitter produced a slight scare. Jose Martinez lined a ball that glanced off Anderson's glove and ricocheted off Anderson's left cheek to the third baseman.
“I feel good,” Anderson said. “Obviously I've had some ups and downs. But that's to be expected. You can't expect to be perfect after not pitching for a year. The last couple of starts I feel I've made good strides.”
The 24-year-old left-hander owns a career 21-23 record with 3.66 ERA with the A's, but it will take time for Anderson to return to his previous standards.
“My breaking ball is coming around,” Anderson said. “My command isn't quite where it was before surgery, but it's coming around. My between-starts routine is coming back, too, which is just as important.”
Two years ago, Anderson posted one of the AL's top ERAs (2.80) a year after setting the A's rookie single-season strikeout record. But he made only 19 starts in 2010, when elbow pain first occurred.
Anderson took a few weeks off that season and felt fine early last season. When elbow pain returned, radar guns revealed he no longer owned a 92 to 96 mph fastball. Friday night he was clocked as high as 93.
“(Velocity) is one of the last things to come back,” Anderson said. “People usually don't feel 100 percent until 15 or 16 months. It's just been a little over 12 for me. That's the least of my worries. It's more about executing pitches and throwing strikes.”
Before surgery, Anderson owned four plus pitches. One theory was his slider, his out pitch, a pitch he threw as much as almost any pitcher in the majors, might have contributed to his elbow injury.