Anderson on pitchers' hit list Struck by 18th pitch, he adds to league-high total

Sidelight

August 27, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Brady Anderson stepped to the plate in the first inning last night, dug both cleats into the dirt, cocked his bat and kept his eyes focused on the strike zone, preparing for the pitch from Oakland A's starter John Wasdin.

Wasdin raised his left leg and fired, the ball dipping until it made contact with Anderson's right calf. Anderson never flinched, keeping both feet firmly planted in the batter's box and rotating his hips just slightly to the left.

Why worry? When you've been hit by pitches a league-leading 18 times this year, and for the second time in four games, it becomes mundane.

The routine is usually the same, Anderson said.

He readies himself for a certain pitch and doesn't even realize the ball is about to hit him until it's too late. He doesn't flail his arms or dive out of the box to avoid the pitch, though he often tilts his head to get at least his face out of the path of the ball.

He's become a professional target.

"I've been hit a lot every year," Anderson said. "You don't want to get injured getting hit, but when I'm at the plate the last thing I care about is getting out of the way of the ball. I don't know, it just doesn't seem like that big of a deal.

"The more it hurts, the more [angry] you get. That's just how it is. A lot of it has to do with me not getting out of the way. . . . Maybe it's because I have slow reactions. Maybe that's it."

Anderson said the pitchers' intentions don't matter. If it hurts, he wants to rush the mound, regardless of whether or not the pitcher was trying to hit him. Anderson said his most painful experience came earlier this year, when Toronto's Juan Guzman hurled a 95-mph fastball that struck the center fielder just above his ankle.

"If a guy is blatantly throwing at you and it doesn't hurt, then you don't care," Anderson said. "That Guzman pitch hurt pretty good. He threw a cutter. He didn't mean to hit me. When I ran to first he asked me if I was all right. It's just part of the game."

Believe it or not, Anderson says there are benefits to getting hit frequently. Anderson is a good base stealer and the higher his on-base percentage, the more runs he is likely to score.

"I want to get on base, that's the main thing," Anderson said. "I don't really want to get out of the way. It's like a walk."

Orioles manager Davey Johnson said Anderson also likes to crowd the plate and loves inside pitches, which enhances his vulnerability. Pitchers try to compensate for this by working Anderson inside, to open up the outer third of the plate. Often they miss inside, which results in a free trip to first.

Anderson also had 38 home runs going into last night, tied for fourth-best in the American League -- a fact not lost on pitchers.

"I think anybody that hits home runs is a lot of times going to get hit more than other guys," Johnson said, "because pitchers want to knock them off the plate. Especially someone like him, who stays right on top of it."

All those bruises could land Anderson in the record books. The Orioles' record for the most times hit by pitches in one season is 20, set by Bobby Grich in 1974.

"I hope he keeps it," Anderson said. "That's one record Bobby Grich can have. When I get to 19, I'm going to start getting out of the way. I'll preserve the record for him."

Pub Date: 8/27/96

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