OAKLAND -- More than 20 pounds lighter and nearly two months free of any carbonated beverage, including what was before an everyday intake of Coca-Cola, lefty Brett Anderson isn't just going through the motions of the usual rehab process.
Rather, he's taking advantage of it, using the time to get himself in excellent condition as he prepares to further a big league career that was stalled in July because of Tommy John surgery.
"It kind of puts everything in perspective," Anderson said this week. "When you're pitching and healthy, you think everything's going good, and when you're hurt, it [stinks] you figure it out then because you realize you could have been doing it all along, but it's one of those things I want to get in the best shape possible and back to where I was in the middle of '09."
It was during that season he set an Oakland rookie record with 150 strikeouts while also leading the pitching staff in wins (11), tying for second in starts (30) and finishing with an 11-11 record and 4.06 ERA -- all at the age of 21. In the following season, Anderson lowered his ERA by more than a run (2.80) but also endured two stints on the disabled list with elbow problems.
His July procedure should cure those ailments, and the 23-year-old southpaw is hoping to showcase his improved health on the mound in a year's time dating to the surgery, much like the way the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg did. The right-handed pitcher returned just three days after the one-year mark of his elbow procedure and, though limited in innings as a precaution, has allowed just two earned runs while fanning 11 in 14 innings.
"A year, that year mark seems to be right where everyone wants to be," Anderson said. "It's nice to see the success he's had in his last couple starts. I think I'm on track, maybe ahead of schedule even. My range of motion came back pretty quickly.
"I know it's going to take some time, and it's going to be a grind, and you're going to have days where you're kind of tired of doing some of the rehab stuff, but the goal in the end is to be healthy and be back in the big leagues, and it takes knowing all that to get there."
Anderson's next appointment with Dr. James Andrews, who performed his surgery, is at the end of October, and he's hoping he'll exit the visit cleared to start throwing. Fellow rehabbing lefty Dallas Braden -- whom Anderson has been rehabbing with, along with general manager Billy Beane, who had shoulder surgery -- was recently cleared to throw, and manager Bob Melvin said Thursday he should be only slightly behind other pitchers in Spring Training.
"From what I understand, he's on schedule, if not, slightly ahead," Melvin said of Braden. "I found, with my limited time around him, he's more of a guy you have to back off than push. He's got some energy and likes to compete, wants to be part of it. He's certainly a guy that's not going to lack work and desire to be out there. And based on what I've heard leading up, we're probably in pretty good shape for him to only be a little behind in Spring Training. Whether he's ready at the end of Spring Training, I'm not sure. But it wouldn't surprise me."
As for Anderson, who will spend most of his offseason rehabbing in Austin, Texas, Melvin has been equally impressed.
"Unbelievable," he said. "I've really been impressed with the work he's put in, with the rehab and the losing weight and getting in better shape for next year. I think he's at that point in his career where he realizes that it's very important, especially when you have an injury, that nothing's really given to you and you have to work hard all the time."
Melvin keeping close eye on pitchers' innings
OAKLAND -- Even opposing Rangers hurler C.J. Wilson anticipated a complete game from Brandon McCarthy on Wednesday, when the A's righty exited his start after seven innings with just 79 pitches to his line.
But the early pull was part of an ongoing effort by Oakland manager Bob Melvin to carefully monitor the innings of each of his pitchers, especially those like McCarthy who have a long history with injuries.
McCarthy compiled just 56 1/3 innings with Texas' Triple-A affiliate last season, which was interrupted by shoulder problems, but following Wednesday's performance was at the 162 2/3 mark this season. Fellow righty Rich Harden pitched 115 1/3 innings last year and, in just three months this season, has racked up 76 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, Guillermo Moscoso -- who, like McCarthy and Harden spent the 2010 season in Texas' organization -- is up to 167 1/3 innings between Triple-A and Oakland this year after throwing 124 last season.
"We're cognizant of all that," Melvin said. "We've got a lot of number-crunching going on to make sure we're not overworking these guys and giving them a chance to stay healthy."
It's a plan that has served well for Harden, who despite not making his first start of the year until July 1 has been injury-free since -- marking a rather encouraging time for the oft-injured veteran. He's slated to make just one more start this year, on Sunday in Anaheim.
"I know he's proud of the fact he's getting to the finish line healthy and still pitching effectively," Melvin said.
Second baseman Jemile Weeks entered Thursday batting .297 and when asked if he'd consider benching the rookie on the final day of the season if he were at the .300 mark, manager Bob Melvin said, "I think he'd fight me on it, to tell you the truth."
"He likes to play," Melvin said. "He's a very tough competitor, I've found in a short amount of time. He takes a couple 0-fers, he doesn't get down, he gets mad, and you're able to see the tenacity he brings against good pitchers."
Melvin's done it before, though, in 2008 while with Arizona, when he sat former D-backs and A's outfielder Conor Jackson to allow him to finish the year with a .300 average. Weeks likely wouldn't allow such a scenario.
"I think he'd come in and say, 'I want to play,'" Melvin said.
Scott Sizemore, who has been battling shoulder tendinitis for nearly two weeks, was given the day off Thursday, with Eric Sogard making a start at third base. Adding into the equation was Sizemore's career numbers against Texas right-hander Colby Lewis, against whom he's just 1-for-11 with four strikeouts.
Rehabbing outfielder Ryan Sweeney (upper quad) took some swings off a tee on Wednesday but has yet to hit in the cage or take part in batting practice, making his return by season's end a slim possibility with just six games remaining after Thursday.
With Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Rangers, the A's fell to 18-25 in one-run games, which is the worst record in the American League. The losses are also the most by an A's team since 1987, when they went 20-27.