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Angels Already Pleased by Their Top Draft Choice : Baseball: Brian Anderson headed for rookie league, but pitcher could be in the majors before long.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It didn’t seem to bother Angel officials that Brian Anderson, their No. 1 draft pick, gave up three home runs in one inning the last time he pitched.

Anderson, a left-hander from Wright State, was pitching against Eastern Illinois in the Mid-Continent Conference tournament. In the eighth inning, three of the first four batters homered over the short fences at Cleveland State’s baseball field.

“I couldn’t believe it. Three of them,” Anderson said. “They were all routine flies. But that place is tiny.”

No, Angel officials were unconcerned. Anderson won the game, 5-3. That’s what they liked.

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Anderson saw a larger ballpark Friday. A day after signing with the Angels, he made a stop at a place he’d like to be in the not-too-distant future--Anaheim Stadium.

Anderson, 21, flew from Cleveland to see professional baseball at its highest level before beginning his career at its lowest. He will travel to Arizona today to join the Angels’ rookie league team in Mesa.

Team officials were cautious about speculating how long it would take Anderson to return to Anaheim in a professional capacity. But their eagerness was hard to hide.

“The scouts who saw him said that he could have pitched in the major leagues then,” said Dan O’Brien, the team’s senior vice president for baseball operations. “He’s always around the plate. He doesn’t beat himself. If you’re going to beat him, you’re going to have to hit him.”

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Said Director of Scouting Bob Fontaine: “It’s not fair to rate his pitches, 1-2-3-4. He has four pitches and they are all good. With his control, he has a chance to be very successful.”

Indeed, the Angels are high on their newest player. There is a lot to like.

Anderson was a late bloomer. He was 5 feet 10, 160 pounds when he graduated from Geneva (Ohio) High School in 1990. Three years and 30 pounds later, he was one of the hottest pitching prospects in a pitching-rich draft.

“Some people thought I would be drafted out of high school,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t surprised when it didn’t happen. I wasn’t ready then.”

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He is now.

Anderson was 10-1 with a 1.14 earned-run average for Wright State last season. He was 28-8 during his three-year career.

His fastball has been clocked in the 90-m.p.h range and he has pinpoint control. Anderson struck out 98 and walked only six last season--numbers that helped make him the third player selected in the draft.

“He pitches like a major leaguer right now,” Fontaine said. “Of course, we haven’t seen him against major league hitting yet.”

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Anderson might have gotten that chance this season. The Angels have been ramrodding players through their system this season. They currently have three rookies in their starting rotation.

Anderson might possibly have been the fourth, but contract negotiations bogged down. The team began talks with his family June 14, but the two sides didn’t work out an agreement until late Wednesday.

“It was a difficult process,” Anderson said. “I don’t think I’m the first player to have been through this. It’s normal.”

Anderson worked out at Wright State during the negotiations. He returned to Geneva on Tuesday when the deal was imminent.

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The deal included a bonus of $690,000. The terms of the contract were not announced.

“Let’s just say I’m pleased with it,” Anderson said.

The Angels will be too, if all goes well.

Anderson will work out in Mesa, then he will be reassigned.

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“Right now, we don’t have any kind of timetable,” Fontaine said. “He has to get himself in shape to pitch, then we’ll see. We’ll let him tell us when he’s ready.”

Anderson already has an idea.

“In college, it would take me two weeks to get ready,” he said. “I threw complete games in my first start all three years. In two weeks, I can be ready to pitch.”

Preferably in a park with longer fences.

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