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Brett Anderson overcomes back stiffness post longest start of season

Brett Anderson convinced trainer Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly he was fine to continue pitching, and he was right.
Brett Anderson convinced trainer Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly he was fine to continue pitching, and he was right.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- Brett Anderson survived an injury scare to pitch his longest outing of the season in the Dodgers' 6-3 win over the Braves on Monday night at Dodger Stadium. Back tightness proved to be only a speed bump, at least for now.

After Anderson threw a wild pitch that nearly hit Freddie Freeman in the fifth inning, both trainer Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly jogged to the mound to check on their pitcher. Given Anderson's checkered injury history, any mound visit by the trainer will be perceived as a bad thing.

"It just got kind of tight there. I almost hit Freeman in the face. My mechanics got a little out of whack. I don't know if I was babying it or thought it was a bigger deal than it was," Anderson explained. "But I was able to get back to my mechanics and throw strikes, and letting the defense make plays behind me like I was in the first two or three innings."

Catcher A.J. Ellis first noticed something in the fourth inning, and alerted Mattingly and Conte to check on Anderson if needed. After the wild pitch to Freeman prompted the mound visit, Anderson threw three warmup pitches and stayed in the game.

"We were a little worried. It seemed like he had a little stiffness in his back. He felt like he was just a little glitch and that he was fine," Mattingly said. "When I came back in we made sure he understood the importance of not hurting it any more. He assured us that he was good."

77.3% -68 of the 88 balls in play against Anderson in May have been hit on the ground (including 18 of 23 on Monday), resulting in that astronomical ground ball rate, tops in baseball this month.

Good for Anderson is a relative term, averaging just 52 innings per season in his previous four years. His 2014 season ended with surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, so this is no small concern.

But Anderson was good after staying in. He allowed a go-ahead RBI single to Freeman, though that was a ball hit into the shift that Howie Kendrick probably should have made. After the single, Anderson retired his final seven batters faced.

"With my track record and history, unfortunately, they are going to take every precaution necessary," Anderson said. "I didn't see it getting any worse going forward, and I knew I could stay in and pitch. I was able to get two plus innings going forward. I feel better now and don't expect it to be an issue going forward.

"I think I set a record for [my] innings pitched in the last four years," Anderson deadpanned. "It's not something you want to have, but other than that tweak I feel good going forward."

Anderson is at 49⅓ innings this season, which is his most in a season since 2011 (83⅓ innings in 13 starts), and his nine (uninterrupted) starts are also his most in four years.

The Dodgers will see how Anderson feels on Tuesday, but for now this seems like a bullet dodged.

"He's been nothing but a picture of health for us. All spring was good, he doesn't miss bullpens. There's been nothing he hasn't been able to do. Even though he's had a history, that would be the only reason to watch him," Mattingly said. "At this point we've lost two starters for the year, and we couldn't let him try to do too much there."

Up next

The Dodgers turn to Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday night in the middle game of the series, a 7:10 p.m. PT start. Julio Teheran starts for Atlanta.