FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- If you're Brady Anderson, do you make a case for hitting first, complain about batting third or simply take the fifth?
None of the above.
Though stating a preference for batting leadoff this season, the Orioles' center fielder said after yesterday's workout that he'll hit "wherever they put me." And that could be third, depending on which lineup manager Ray Miller settles upon from a bevy of possibilities.
It was only a few days ago, during a conversation with his father, that Anderson said he learned about the possibility of dropping in the order.
Miller is toying with the idea of positioning Anderson ahead of Albert Belle should the former Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox slugger wind up in the cleanup spot, where he's most comfortable and productive.
"That doesn't matter. I'll hit where they put me," said Anderson, who batted first in 63 games last season, second in 51 and sixth in five. He also hit fifth and seventh in one game each, as injuries sabotaged his season.
"Wherever you hit in the lineup, I'm going to take the same skills," he said.
"You try to change, you try to improve the type of hitter you are every year, but it's not like you can put Frank Thomas in the leadoff spot and all of a sudden expect him to steal bases.
"I try to take the skills I do best and use them in whatever spot in the order they choose to hit me."
Second baseman Delino DeShields, signed as a free agent over the winter, is the leading candidate to hit first.
Anderson, who's entering the second season of a five-year, $31 million contract, was removed from that slot last year in favor of Roberto Alomar and posted his lowest average (.236) since 1991. He was stuck at .063 on May 11, and batted .262 over the remainder of the season.
Statistics weren't the only source of Anderson's pain. He was on the disabled list from April 21 to May 8 with a strained right shoulder and was bothered by a chronically inflamed patella tendon in his right knee, but still managed to hit 18 homers and score 84 runs.
"In my opinion, Brady can be a great major-league ballplayer," Miller said. "He has been, but I think injuries have really limited that somewhat the last couple of years.
"But I spent about an hour or so pumping him up, wanting him to know I know how good he is and how he's an integral part of this ballclub.
"If we can keep him from running into one of these light poles and getting hurt, he can have a big year. And that doesn't have to be a 50-home-run year. Hopefully, it won't be the first half of last year.
"I told him, `Everybody says you had a terrible year last year, but you scored 84 runs and that was without being very productive the first half of the year.' That's only 16 runs off from having a [heck] of a year."
After doing some research, Anderson chose not to have surgery on his knee. He had been advised to test it immediately after the season rather than rest for a month and then possibly find out the injury would require him to go under the knife.
Anderson did a lot of running, which he mixed into a busy travel schedule with professional tennis player Amanda Coetzer that took him to South Africa, Japan, Australia and Europe.
"My knee was sore on and off, but it gradually got better," he said. "Just before I came to spring training, my shoulder started feeling better and my knee was feeling a little better.
"When you're always pushing yourself, you risk injuring it, and if you don't push it, you get out of shape.
"I had times when I was disappointed with the way it felt. But I pushed it right away and it didn't get worse."
Because of all his travels, Anderson didn't hear much about the Orioles' failed pursuit of free-agent center fielder Brian Jordan.
Anderson spent the early portion of his career in left field and appeared to be heading back there until Jordan signed with Atlanta.
"I talked to him about it," Miller said. "I gave him my opinions. I think he kind of understood where I was coming from.
"I think he'd be a great center fielder and I think he'd be a great left fielder. But you're looking to get as many greats as you can."
"As soon as I came to camp," Anderson said, "several coaches came up and told me they thought it was crazy that they'd move me out of center field.
"There have been times in the last few years when I played center field where I couldn't run that well because I was injured.
"I remember Davey [Johnson] telling me, `Just go out in center field. Don't run.' But when you do that, you could set yourself up for criticism, and probably deservedly so."
Pub Date: 2/27/99