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03/06/10 4:50 PM EST
Anderson joins Dodgers' talented mix
Veteran has tough task ahead to secure outfield job
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Garret Anderson reported to his new employer on Saturday morning and, despite 16 years as a quality starting outfielder, didn't need anybody to break the news that he's fighting for a very limited role with the Dodgers. "They don't have to tell me about any role. All I have to do is look at the roster -- [Manny] Ramirez, [Matt] Kemp, [Andre] Ethier," Anderson said of the Dodgers starting outfield, not mentioning fourth outfielder Reed Johnson. "Nothing needs to be said. I know the situation, and I've accepted it." The situation: the Dodgers need a left-handed pinch-hitter. The competition: Brian Giles, whose knee might not allow his career to continue. And Doug Mientkiewicz, who still looks capable of swinging a bat, but whose damaged shoulder makes him a defensive question mark if he's needed in the field. And Anderson? At 37, he's not the three-time All-Star left fielder he was with the Angels. And he doesn't figure to get anywhere near the 135 games he played for Atlanta last year, when he hit .268 with 13 homers and 61 RBIs. He said the tone was set last season when he tore his right calf muscle in Spring Training. "It was an uphill fight the rest of the season," he said. Anderson is a career .295 hitter with 2,501 hits, 285 homers and 1,353 RBIs. He's won two Silver Slugger Awards and has a string of 14 Opening Day starts. Now after a second year of free agency that again resulted in a Spring Training signing, Anderson said he accepts all that comes with being in the twilight of a stellar career. He's never come into a season preparing to be a pinch-hitter. He said he's done all he can to stay in shape back home in Orange County, but he hasn't taken batting practice off live pitching and estimates he will need "nine or 10 days" before he's game-ready."He'll tell me when he's ready to play," said manager Joe Torre. "Maybe it will be [hitting coach Don] Mattingly's decision to make. I've talked to him about it. Right now, the roster is pretty well full, but knowing what he brings to the table, watching from the other side and really liking what I see, it's a plus. It's just a matter of figuring it out." Anderson said for all of those years as a mainstay of a franchise, he never considered what it would be like trying to hang around in a reduced role. "Everyday players don't think like that," he said. "You don't think you'll be in this situation. Realistically, you end up like this or not playing, but I never thought about that." Anderson said he also doesn't have a real handle on what he'll do when his career is over, although he conceded he was very close to finding out. "This was right around the time where I thought that, if I wasn't with a team, realistically the chances of making a team would be very slim," he said. He said he probably will "just vegetate for a little while" when it comes time to pack it in. "The transition phase from playing to not playing, everything is abrupt," he said. "You need time away to figure out what to do. I try not to think about it. I don't get too far ahead of myself." Anderson had been talking to the Dodgers before they signed Giles to a Minor League contract, but at the time, Anderson was still looking for Major League money. Ultimately, he signed a Minor League contract for a $550,000 base salary plus incentives.
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Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.