NEW YORK -- It's fitting and probably to his liking that Brett Anderson will return to a postseason mound for the first time in three years Monday night yet hardly anyone will pay him much mind. The storylines will be Matt Harvey and how much his rebuilt right elbow can take, and what he or his New York Mets teammates might do to Chase Utley or one of his teammates in retaliation for breaking shortstop Ruben Tejada's leg in a takeout slide.
Anderson has been slipping in unannounced all season and helping to hold the back of the Los Angeles Dodgers' rotation together. Without Anderson, it would have been Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and a cast of a dozen extras.
"Hopefully, I can do what I've been doing all year and slide in behind the two best pitchers in baseball and give us a decent chance to win and do that for another couple of series," Anderson said.
It has been a long time coming, Anderson's career becoming more about survival than thriving for a while. There was a time, when he was a teenager, when many people thought he would enjoy a career like the one Kershaw is having, vying for ERA and strikeout titles.
Kershaw knew him way back then. They were two of the brightest arms to come out of the state of Texas. When Anderson made his professional debut in South Bend, Indiana, in 2007, Kershaw was the opposing pitcher.
"He might have had better overall stuff when he was 17 and 18, just based on injuries and stuff, but he's learned how to pitch a lot better," Kershaw said.
He hasn't had much choice, because bad luck has been practically the only kind he has known.
Anderson's father, Frank, will be at Citi Field on Monday night for Game 3 of the National League Division Series along with his wife, Sandra, and his daughter, Katelyn. A longtime pitching coach for the Texas Longhorns and the former head coach at Oklahoma State, Frank now is the pitching coach at the University of Houston. He had to leave his team during fall ball and recruiting in order to see his son get back in the postseason spotlight for the first time since 2012, when Brett was 24.
Even by then, Anderson's career had been dealt a potentially mortal blow. He had undergone Tommy John surgery two summers previous and, by the time he faced the Detroit Tigers in Game 3 of the American League Division Series for the Oakland A's, he was already a different pitcher. In 2009, Anderson's fastball would touch 97 mph and his slider could reach 90 mph. He rarely had to bother with a changeup and he barely threw the sinker that has become his mainstay.
But the elbow reconstruction was only the beginning of the ways Anderson's body would let him down. Every year before 2015, something arose, from a broken foot to a herniated disk in his back to a broken hand on a checked swing. That's why Monday will be so gratifying for Frank Anderson, who has followed in the shadows as his son toiled to get back.
"It's exciting because I know the amount of work that went into it and all the stuff behind the scenes," Frank Anderson said. "He has had some crazy injuries, just unheard-of stuff. It has been a ways in between and I got to see the one with Oakland, which was obviously a good one. I hope this one is, too."
Back in 2012 against Detroit, Anderson pitched six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits, for the win, but the A's eventually lost that series in five games.
Thanks to his sinker, Anderson, 27, has returned to being one of the steadier pitchers in the game. His 3.69 ERA was 20th in the National League and his 180⅓ innings and 31 starts were both career highs. His ground-ball rate, 66.2 percent, was the best in the majors this season, just ahead of Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel's.
"He should be proud of his year," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's been really good. I mean, really good for us all year long."
The Dodgers debated a bit between Anderson and Alex Wood for the Game 3 start, but they zeroed in on Anderson fairly quickly. Wood has a spotty career record against the Mets and at Citi Field while Anderson has never faced them or pitched there. That could be an advantage as well, because some of the Mets hitters have never faced him.
Not that there's much mystery to what he's trying to get them to do: hit it into the ground.
"His first year in the big leagues, his velocity was up to 97-98 mph and his slider was up to 90," Frank Anderson said. "It's not like that any more."
Harvey, like teammates Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, will be the one lighting up the radar gun once again Monday night. Anderson will be the guy quietly going about his business, hoping nobody notices until it's about the seventh or eighth inning and the Dodgers have gotten control of this series for the first time.