At this point last year, Brett Anderson was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but was something of an afterthought - Manny Ramirez even mistook him for the A's video coordinator.
This season, Anderson is front and center. The left-hander, still only 25, is one of the best young starters in the game, he's the leader of the A's rotation and he's coming off a thoroughly normal winter during which he could prepare like any other pitcher.
Anderson, after missing more than a year with a torn ulnar collateral ligament plus time before that with arm trouble, almost assuredly will be Oakland's Opening Night starter.
"Brett has put in more time on the team than all the rest of us and we all learn from him," said second-year starter Jarrod Parker, who is the only other realistic Opening Night option. "I think it's him. Obviously, he's put in his time, he's been in the organization a while, and he's earned it. Brett is our guy."
A's manager Bob Melvin has yet to announce an Opening Night starter and Anderson hasn't heard anything about the plans, but, he said, "Everyone wants to be the Opening Day pitcher. It shows the manager, the front office, have confidence in you to pitch against other teams' best starters. Competitive people want to be out there on Day 1."
Anderson is a little ahead of the game this season, having gotten in about a month's worth of work in August and September before an oblique strain kept him out until Game 3 of the AL Division Series against Detroit.
He won his first four starts after coming back from surgery, putting up an 0.69 ERA and walking three in 26 innings. Anderson lost his next two starts, but when he came back from the oblique strain in the postseason, he allowed two hits in six shutout innings in Oakland's 2-0 win.
"The big thing was getting back on a big-league mound (in August), and having success there, and coming back from the oblique, too," Anderson said.
Melvin praised the rehab work Anderson did last year, pointing to his greatly improved physical condition, and he noted that Anderson is still trying to get better. Anderson echoed that Monday when A's pitchers and catchers reported to Phoenix Municipal Stadium - he said he'd like to make 30-plus starts this year now that he's finally healthy. Over the previous three season, Anderson made 38 starts altogether.

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