Anderson dons new gear for 'peace of mind'

February 19th, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- Live batting practice on the third day of full-squad workouts isn’t usually a fun experience for hitters, who are often facing big league pitchers for the first time since the end of last season.

For Marlins third baseman Brian Anderson, Wednesday was a chance to clear a mental hurdle, because he was staring back at a pitcher for the first time since fracturing his left hand last August.

“I’m just excited to be out here, and be on the field again,” Anderson said.

Taking no chances this year, Anderson intends to protect his left hand by wearing a protective hand guard, that straps on over the outside of his batting glove.

“For me, it’s not even something that I have to do,” Anderson said. “It’s for my peace of mind.”

Sporting left hand and elbow guards, Anderson took his swings against his teammates on the back fields of the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex. The first pitch he saw was a fastball from hard-throwing right-hander José Ureña.

The result was all too familiar and certainly encouraging for the Marlins. Anderson laced a liner to the warning track in right field. In a game situation, it probably would have been a double.

The 26-year-old collected 33 doubles in 126 games last season.

“The thing he’s been doing better is his approach,” said Ureña, his Marlins’ teammate since 2017. “It’s a good thing when you see a young guy who is getting more experience with his approach.”

The Marlins consider Anderson their third baseman of the future, which is why they intend for him to play mostly the hot corner, rather than have him also split time in right field. Anderson is also one of the main core young players on a roster that infused more veterans in the offseason, like Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson and Jesús Aguilar.

Anderson is entering his third full big league season. He’s also as close to untouchable as any player the Marlins have on their roster. Many teams in the offseason inquired to see if Anderson was available via trade. Miami made it clear that he wasn’t.

At the end of 2019, Anderson was making big strides. But on Aug. 23, he was pegged by a 93.9 mph fastball from Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez. The pitch fractured his fifth metacarpal, ending his season.

“I’m not somebody that dives out over the plate,” Anderson said. “But I want to be protected. I want to be able to stay in as many games as possible. Even if it’s something like wearing a hand guard. If that’s something I can do to stay on the field longer, I’m going to do it.”

A low-key, but intense competitor, Anderson was picking things up at the time of his hand injury. In August, he hit .342/.433/.618 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 76 at-bats.

For the season, he finished with a slash line of .261/.342/.468 with career-highs in home runs (20) and RBIs (66).

If not for the broken hand, Anderson had a realistic shot at more than 25 home runs.

“I think for him to see some balls go into the seats was good for him,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s a guy that everybody projects will have power.”

In the second half, he hit .284/.355/.568 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs in 39 games. In 87 games in the first half, he hit .251 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs.

One thing that changed was his average launch angle, which was 14.1 degrees after the All-Star break, according to Statcast. It was 9.8 degrees in the first half.

“I think his confidence was growing,” Mattingly said. “The second half, just more success, as the season got going. For me, I was seeing confidence. A guy that is more settled.”