Dodgers left-hander Brett Anderson has pitched 12 2/3 innings in June. That would be about as ordinary as statistics can get, except for this: Over the previous five years, Anderson pitched a total of seven innings in June.
When the Dodgers signed the oft-injured Anderson last winter, he was their fifth starter, and they might have been thrilled to get 100 innings from him. Now, after season-ending injuries to Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu, Anderson is their third starter, and they might need close to 200 innings from him.
Anderson pitched 53 innings last year, 54 the year before and 60 in 2012.
Needing to triple that workload, the Dodgers have not mixed in any extra rest for Anderson. They have no plans to skip him in the rotation every now and then. They do not have a target for how many innings he should pitch this year.
“Hopefully, there is no cap,” Anderson said. “I feel good right now. Hopefully — knock on wood — I will continue to feel this way.”
Anderson has made all of his starts this season. He has started on extra rest more often than on the regular four days of rest, but so have aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
“It’s a long season, with hopefully a long October run,” said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. “That’s been how the schedule has laid out, and it’s been that way for all our guys.”
The Dodgers will not have that luxury over the next several weeks. They open a weekend series Friday in San Diego, the first of 20 consecutive games without a day off.
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said the team would keep a wary eye on Anderson.
“Right now, he’s been able to bounce back extremely well and do everything he needs to do in between starts,” Honeycutt said. “That’s what I’m watching more than anything.
“We’re going to have a hard stretch ‘til the All-Star break. That’s obviously a time that will dictate what we’ll be able to see. There will probably be three starts in a row that will have to be on regular time.”
Anderson, 27, has a record of 2-4 with a 3.57 earned-run average. He, Kershaw and Greinke each have started 12 games, but Kershaw ranks fifth in the National League in innings pitched and Greinke sixth.
Anderson ranks 41st in innings (68), and 46th in pitches thrown — 1,042, compared to 1,191 for Greinke and 1,197 for Kershaw.
Kershaw leads the league in strikeouts, with 101. Anderson has less than half as many, and he is thrilled with the lower pitch count.
“Hopefully, I can keep getting ground balls and being efficient,” he said. “Hopefully, the innings rack up quickly.”
Said Honeycutt: “There really haven’t been, as of late, stressful innings for him. For the most part, it’s been pretty smooth. He’s been able to hold his delivery and hold his mechanics together. Those are things I look for, more than thinking so far ahead and saying we’ve got to do this or that.”
Anderson is on pace to throw 184 innings — which would top his career high of 175, set in 2009. He has been on the disabled list in every season between that one and this one. But he has not had an arm injury since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2012.
The Dodgers treat him differently than a prospect building to a 175-inning workload, they say, because Anderson already has thrown 175 innings, even if it was six years ago.
“It’s not like he’s never done it,” Honeycutt said. “It’s not the same as a younger guy going through.”
Said Anderson: “I’ve saved some bullets in the arm with other injuries, to other parts of my body. Hopefully, that conservation that I have had to have will play itself out, and I will be fresh for the long haul this year.”
Friedman said the Dodgers — the baseball operations staff, the coaching staff, and the medical staff — prefer to rely on Anderson to provide regular and honest input about his arm strength rather than saddle him with an arbitrary inning limit.
“We do it on guys in the minor leagues and guys who are just coming up,” Friedman said. “And, even with that, it’s not like we have tremendous precision. We tend to follow a pretty similar schedule for a lot of those guys.
“But, once they get up here, we try to make it as specific as possible. The fact that he has done it — and everyone is unique and different — requires us to be as specific as we can be with him, and how he’s bouncing back, and where his strength levels are, to help provide us a road map.”
Said Anderson: “At this point, I’m just trying to go out there every five days and give us a chance. We’ll see what the number is later on in the season.”
Does he really believe he could throw 50 innings one year and 180 the next?
“Hopefully,” he said. “Hopefully, one year — this year — my big, durable body will finally take hold.”