Anderson ready to answer call
Veteran staying in shape while stuck in free-agent limbo
ANAHEIM -- Garret Anderson had just finished his daily workout -- an extensive, exhausting 2 1/2-hour regimen -- at the Boras Sports Training Institute in Newport Beach, Calif., and he wasn't even breathing heavily.The most productive offensive player in Angels history is determined to be proactive as he plays the waiting game of free agency. "I'm in great shape," Anderson said. "It's the first time I've ever done anything this extreme in the offseason, and I can feel the benefits. I'm making sure that when I get my chance, I'll be in shape." After 14 seasons in an Angels uniform, Anderson is on the open market for the first time at 36. Obviously, there have been better winters to be looking for work, even in Major League Baseball. After the big chips, except for Manny Ramirez, fell into place, movement has been slow with the second tier of free agents. Anderson is among a group of proven performers -- Bobby Abreu, Ben Sheets, Adam Dunn, Jon Garland, to name a few -- waiting for the right opportunity to present itself. "In a perfect world, you would like to find a team early," Anderson said. "This year, it's a unique situation. It's a slow-developing market. There's still a myriad of guys who don't have jobs. I'm not the only one. I'm in a group of guys. "Timing is everything." Angels general manager Tony Reagins and manager Mike Scioscia met with Anderson after the season to get a feel for where each side stood. When it became evident to the player that a split was likely, he began to formulate a plan, and part of it was hiring Scott Boras as his agent. "I told them I still wanted to play 145-plus games," Anderson said. "They wanted to see what my flexibility was. Basically, they asked me if I would be willing to accept two days a week, three days a week, so on. The only thing that wasn't thrown at me was playing every day. "From their standpoint, maybe it was their way of saying they were moving on. We haven't talked since then." The signing of Juan Rivera having created a full house in the Angels' outfield, Reagins has called the return of Anderson "unlikely." With 2,368 career hits in 2,013 games -- club records along with runs (1,024), doubles (489), total bases (3,743) and RBIs (1,292) -- Anderson probably needs to play four more years to enter the exalted neighborhood of 3,000 hits.
"I have a goal of reaching 3,000 hits," he said. "All players have goals, and that's one of mine. I'm not going to do that sitting on the bench. With what I did last year, it's not a case of a guy hanging on. I had a good season, and I think I earned the right to an everyday job."His 587 plate appearances in 145 games in 2008 were his most since 2005. Anderson batted .293, a shade under his .296 career average, with 15 homers and 84 RBIs. Only Vladimir Guerrero (91) produced more RBIs among the Angels. Anderson's .371 batting average in late-and-close situations was the third-highest mark in the American League. He admittedly was disappointed in his 3-for-19 performance in the American League Division Series against Boston, but he hit in bad luck. Two long drives were flagged down against walls and a third bullet found the glove of left fielder Jason Bay. Defensively, Anderson continued to excel while dividing his time between left field and designated hitter. A poll of nine experts in the 2009 Bill James Handbook had Anderson ranked fifth with the glove among all left fielders in the Majors. As for his free agency, Anderson said he is keeping all options and doors open, adding that he wouldn't be averse to switching leagues. "Playing with the Angels, I've played the National League style of baseball, going first to third, running, stealing bases," Anderson said. "I'm very comfortable with that. "I'm not limiting myself to playing in the American League. A pretty good chunk of the season goes to Interleague Play, so those barriers aren't there any more. The transition wouldn't be a big deal." Boras is exploring the market for Anderson, and the agent is nothing if not thorough. That is evident in his institute, which features four trainers and state-of-the-art equipment and methods. Anderson is there, bright and early, five days per week, along with new A's slugger Matt Holliday and a small group of Minor Leaguers in the Boras camp. "Today was plyometrics," Anderson said. "We start on the bike for 15, 20 minutes, stretch, loosen up. We do some jumping to develop quick bursts, then we were out for 20 50-yard sprints. We do upper body weight work one day, lower body the next. The trainers go over everything with us, and it always helps to have guys to work out with. "The institute was one of the reasons I was drawn to Scott. It's top-notch. I've never trained to this extreme. I always did some running and weight-lifting in the offseason, but nothing like this." His family occupies his down time, and Anderson -- an elite three-sport star in high school -- stays on top of other interests, such as the NBA and NFL. "I've always tried to stay calm as an athlete," Anderson said. "It's how I've gone about my business, keeping a balance. I'm sure that helps me now." The waiting, Tom Petty crooned, is the hardest part. After 14 highly productive seasons in one place, often flying under the radar as one of the game's most underrated stars, Anderson looks ready to move on to a brave new world.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.