Brett Anderson endured grueling workouts, lost 20 pounds and pushed through the challenging rehab for elbow-ligament replacement surgery with one thing in mind: getting back on the Oakland mound for a meaningful game.
He's got it, all right. The Athletics left-hander will start Game 3 of the AL division series at home Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers with his team down 2-0 and trying to stave off elimination.
At 24 years, 251 days, Anderson will become the fifth-youngest pitcher in Oakland history to make his first career postseason start.
Just when he got on a roll in six starts after returning from a 14-month absence in August, he strained his right oblique muscle after landing awkwardly at Detroit on Sept. 19.
"It wasn't ideal getting hurt again," Anderson said. "But I feel good, and the postseason, who knows when we're going to get back here. You'd like to say you're going to get back here again."
Manager Bob Melvin said the game and Anderson would dictate how long he pitches, though pitching coach Curt Young said it likely would be around an 80-pitch count.
"Not too many limitations," Melvin said. "Adrenalin kicks in and sometimes you have more in the tank than you normally would after a little bit of time off."
The A's had gotten by with an all-rookie rotation minus Anderson, opening day starter Brandon McCarthy who needed brain surgery after taking a line drive to the head Sept. 5 and lefty Dallas Braden as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
"It really ruins our rookie starting pitching streak," teammate Jonny Gomes joked. "One less historic thing we can do this year."
Cardinals rookie shortstop Pete Kozma has been a magnet for controversy the first two postseason games, backing off on the infamous infield fly in the one-game playoff against the Braves and then booting a backhand attempt on a grounder for an error that fueled the Nationals' go-ahead two-run eighth in Game 1.
Manager Mike Matheny could have inserted veteran Skip Schumaker at second base and moved Daniel Descalso to shortstop, but he stuck with the kid who was an effective fill-in after Rafael Furcal was sidelined by a season-ending elbow injury.
"He's getting kind of beat up right now. It seems to be an increasing distraction, I'm sure, if this is getting around to him," Matheny said. "The message that we're staying with is the right message, which is we've had you in here in high leverage positions from the start and you've done a terrific job. Hopefully, he gets back to playing his game and trusting himself."
Kozma went 1-for-3 with a double and scored twice in Game 2.