Anderson optioned to Triple-A Charlotte
Corresponding roster move expected on Monday
CHICAGO -- Give Brian Anderson credit for keeping his spirits high in the face of the greatest difficulty he has endured as a baseball player.
With the media slowly gathering around his locker after news of him being optioned to Triple-A Charlotte had been delivered following Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Angels at U.S. Cellular Field, Anderson looked up and wondered aloud what he had done to deserve such attention.
"Did I make some sort of All-Star team?" asked Anderson with a wry smile.
Truth be told, he has grown accustomed to the daily attention, and most of it has been negative for the 25-year-old first-round pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. It seems as though the topic regarding whether he should stay in the Majors as Chicago's 25th man or return to Charlotte to get more consistent at-bats has been debated since the team broke camp.
When asked about Anderson on Saturday, general manager Ken Williams pointed out how it wasn't fair for his young outfielder to read about these Minor League possibilities or his overall shortcomings on a daily basis. Williams quickly added that the team would make some sort of comment when there was news to announce.
That time came on Sunday. Anderson, who finished 0-for-4 as the designated hitter during a loss to Detroit on Wednesday in his last appearance, received only 17 at-bats over the team's first 22 games. The issue of playing time worried manager Ozzie Guillen when he'd originally opted for Anderson as his final position player, but Anderson earned the nod because his great defense in center field contributed to giving the team its best chance to win.
If the White Sox didn't think Anderson could someday develop into a solid everyday performer, they would have just left him as the forgotten reserve and continued on with their season. Instead they are sending him to Charlotte for a fresh start and four or five at-bats per day.
"You know, it's hard, but it's good for both sides," said Guillen of the move, with the corresponding replacement move to be made on Monday (figuring to be veteran outfielder Luis Terrero arriving from Charlotte). "It's good for him, because the role he was doing was not easy. I think we still think he can play every day in the big leagues. If not, he would be a backup player for the rest of his life.
"I keep saying it's not easy for him or us to sit there. It's not easy to go out as a player and read about yourself, or when you come to the ballpark you don't know if your uniform is still hanging in your locker.
"We sent him down because we need him to get back to what he was. This guy had a tough two years, but he needs to fight for a new way to play."
By Anderson's own admission, this present tenuous situation was brought about by last year's rough rookie campaign. Actually, he was downright horrendous offensively, with a .192 average during the first half of 2006, but he bounced back to hit .257 after the All-Star break.
As evidenced by his early example of self-deprecating humor, Anderson has been nowhere near as hard on himself through the trying times of 2007 as he was during the 2006 struggles. He echoed a sentiment from one week ago on Sunday, in that the White Sox pretty much can do whatever they want with him, with a thinly veiled reference even made to a possible trade.
"I know I'm 25 and I need to be playing, whether it be with Charlotte or here or somewhere else," he said. "I need to be playing at my age.
"It's a little frustrating, because I did well in the spring and broke with the team, so I expected a little bit more out of myself and to play more. But like I said, it's not my decision. If that's what is best for me, I'll go down there and try it out and see what happens.
"Going down there and being bitter would be a waste. I don't think anyone likes the situation. It's kind of an ego shot, but you have to be a professional about it."
That sort of attitude is exactly what hitting coach Greg Walker wants from the young talent, with possibly even a little more fire. Walker explained on Sunday how Anderson basically had made it to the Majors on raw talent combined with a happy-go-lucky attitude. But now Anderson needs to learn how to hit.
According to Walker, Anderson's swing is in good shape, and he turned in some impressive batting practice sessions during the season's first month. In Anderson's limited role, though, many of those days when he was feeling good were spent on the bench.
Walker finally turned to the past trials and tribulations of Aaron Rowand as an example for Anderson to follow. Before Rowand became a folk hero on the 2005 World Series champions, he struggled to find his stroke. After a miserable start in 2003, Rowand was sent back to Charlotte, where Walker was the hitting coach.
Rowand eventually returned, as did Walker, with Rowand finishing the season hitting .287 and grabbing a stranglehold on the starting job in center field. But Rowand didn't just want to succeed upon reaching Charlotte -- he had a hunger to improve, a quest for excellence.
Now Anderson has the same opportunity to turn a rough seven months of baseball into a long-term positive.
"I have mixed emotions about it, because I care so much about the kid, I really do," Walker said. "We knew coming into this thing it would be a tough battle for him. The big factor was the negative baggage he built up last year, to overcome that, while he was sitting on the bench.
"And with the team scuffling, we haven't done him any favors either. Now he needs to take the same attitude Rowand took when he came down there. He was on a mission. Row didn't know how to hit, but he wanted to learn and get his game together. Brian has to go down with attitude: get mean, go to work and figure it out."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.