The journey back to the Major League stage has been difficult for Matt Anderson, but his tenaciousness may have landed him another opportunity for success at the big league level.
Six years removed from his last appearance in the Majors, Anderson’s newest destination is Philadelphia. The 34-year-old inked a Minor League contract with the Phillies in January and will report to minor league camp next month in Clearwater, Fla.
“Quite honestly, I don’t think there are any expectations on our part,” Phillies director of professional scouting Mike Ondo told Baseball America earlier this month. “This is a guy who has put his time in and dedicated himself to getting back, and we’re going to give him a shot and see where it goes.”
A prized prospect out of Rice University, Anderson was selected by the Detroit Tigers as the first overall pick in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft and made his professional debut a year later. In 42 appearances that season he went 5-1 with a 3.27 while flashing a fastball that regularly reached triple digits.
Success, however, was short lived and a once promising career entered a tailspin.
Despite modest success in 2001 as a closer, Anderson struggled to throw strikes in 2002 and missed a portion of the season with a torn arm muscle sustained while throwing in the bullpen. He returned in 2003 but his arm never was the same. He bounced around with the Rockies and Giants before the White Sox cut him loose in 2008.
To Anderson’s credit, he never gave up. He moved to Phoenix in September and began working with former Chicago Cubs strength and conditioning coach Brett Fischer. The velocity on his fastball improved to the 90-94 mph range and scouts began showing a tempered interest, including the Phillies’ Del Unser who watched Anderson throw on three occasions.
“I was going to parade Matt in front of all 30 clubs but right away he said, ‘Try to focus on the Phillies. This team has a real shot to win a World Series, and I know I can help,” Anderson’s representative Joe Longo told Baseball America.
Anderson will earn $500,000 if he reaches Philadelphia this season.
"Whatever happens, I'm cool with it," Anderson said. "But there's no doubt in my mind that I'll pitch in the big leagues again."