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Brett Anderson puts ground game on display

3/30/2015

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Brett Anderson is popular with the teammates who play behind him -- or at least most of them.

Infielders tend to like playing behind a pitcher who works at a relentless pace and induces a lot of ground balls. It’s easy for them to stay sharp and not as easy for them to get bored. Anderson said he warns his infielders he likes to work fast and tells them they can ask him to slow down any time they like, but that “99 percent” would prefer he work fast.

Outfielders aren’t so sure, especially those with short attention spans.

“I think [Yasiel] Puig might have fallen asleep out there,” Anderson said after doing his thing in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.

Anderson’s thing is ground balls, lots of them. When he was healthy the past three seasons, which wasn’t very often, Anderson coaxed ground balls at better than a 60-percent rate, a fairly absurd clip. It was a good coping mechanism both for pitching at Coors Field and for making a nice career in the major leagues. Pitchers who get a lot of ground balls need fewer pitches than those who rely on strikeouts and, in theory, have healthier arms.

Anderson got 12 ground-ball outs Monday, including three double plays. He needed just 74 pitches to get through six innings.

“When I was younger and throwing harder, I’d strike more people out. Obviously, you have to evolve,” Anderson said. “As I’ve gotten older and had some of the injuries, I don’t throw quite as hard, but that’s part of pitching and part of being in the big leagues for a little while now.”

Anderson has been one of the most injury-prone players in the major leagues, but aside from his 2011 elbow-reconstruction surgery, many of the injuries have been fluke occurrences.

The Dodgers might have raised some eyebrows when they spent a combined $58 million on Anderson and Brandon McCarthy over the winter, but it made more sense in the context of the rest of their moves. They reworked the middle of the infield, bringing in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, two of the steadiest defenders in the game at their positions. Last season, the Dodgers had Hanley Ramirez at shortstop and Dee Gordon at second base. Fittingly, Ramirez is now a left fielder and Gordon never rated particularly highly in advanced defensive metrics.

“It’s easy to see what we were trying to do,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Some of things that really hurt us early last year were giving away so many outs and taxing our bullpen because of that.”