Anderson named Opening Day starter

A’s manager Bob Melvin came with news Thursday morning, and he didn’t waste any time delivering it.

“Let’s go ahead and say Brett Anderson is our Opening Day starter,” Melvin said, smiling.

The news isn’t so much surprising as it is rewarding for the 25-year-old Anderson, who is entering his fifth season with the A’s.

Thrust into a playoff run upon his August return from Tommy John rehab last year, the southpaw responded beautifully, winning his first four starts while posting a miniscule 0.69 ERA while walking just three in 26 innings.

Anderson lost his next two starts and suffered an ill-timed oblique strain, before making a seemingly miraculous comeback in short time to pitch Game 3 of the American League Division Series. He allowed two hits in six shutout innings in Oakland’s 2-0 win over the Tigers, saving the team from elimination.

“Based on the guys that we have and how successfully he came back for us last year, we really feel like he’s the man to lead the staff,” Melvin said. “He worked hard to get back and put himself in a position to compete with us at a time of the season where there’s no easing into things. You gotta be good right away, and he was. Then he gets hurt and we think he’s done, and he works just as hard to get back and pitch in a playoff game.”

Though limited to 38 starts over the last three seasons due to four stints on the disabled list, Anderson finally appears primed to compile at least 30 this year, so long as good health remains on his side. To that end, Anderson put in hours of work to allow for such endurance, shedding 25 pounds during his rehab and keeping off the weight this winter.

“There’s never a better time to change when you can’t do anything else,” Anderson said earlier this month. “It’s never fun to be hurt for an extended period of time, but in my case it was probably a blessing in disguise, where it took something like that to realize I should probably make some changes.”

Anderson will be making his spring debut Thursday against the Cubs, and he jokingly asked Melvin if he was sure he wanted to openly announce Opening Day plans without having seen the lefty pitch in a game.

“To say he jumped up and down and all that, probably not, but he took it in stride,” Melvin said of the mellow Anderson. “He said, ‘Every guy aspires to be an Opening Day starter,’ so he was excited, as excited as he gets.”

Anderson is expected to be followed in the rotation by Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily — all 26 years old or younger. Veteran Bartolo Colon, who still has five games remaining on his drug suspension, is eligible to rejoin the team after the first week of the season.

In other news, A’s closer Grant Balfour (right knee) is scheduled to see a doctor today. He made 35 throws from flat ground on Wednesday, and his next step could be throwing off a mound, should his doctor give him the green light.

Michael Ynoa threw a bullpen yesterday, and he’ll throw one more before facing live batting practice. That doesn’t put him too far off from game action.

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