PITTSBURGH – The Cubs gave Brett Anderson $3.5 million guaranteed, a clear spot in their rotation and the chance to pitch in front of what had been a historic defensive unit, making him the only guy on the Opening Day roster who hadn’t already earned a World Series ring.
The Cubs got close to a zero return on that investment, but those are the gambles teams take on the free-agent market with talented, injury-prone pitchers, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.
Anderson put up an 8.18 ERA in six starts and accounted for 22 innings before going on the disabled list for the 10th time since 2010. It became out of sight, out of mind as the lefty recovered from another back injury, got designated for assignment in late July and signed a minor-league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.
But Anderson resurfaced Sunday night on Twitter after two decent starts for Toronto – the last-place Blue Jays lost both games – and took a passive-aggressive shot at the Cubs: “It’s crazy what happens when you aren’t tinkered with and can just go out and pitch.”
“I’m happy he’s healthy and he’s pitching,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said before a 12-0 loss Labor Day loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, walking away from a group of reporters in PNC Park’s visiting dugout. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
Jake Arrieta had every chance to scream told you so, but he never said anything quite like that when he blossomed into a Cy Young Award winner after a change-of-scenery trade with the Baltimore Orioles. Still, the entire industry noticed how Bosio allowed Arrieta to be himself and worked with the unique crossfire delivery that made him comfortable.
Bosio has sharp edges to his personality – and is still dealing with the recent death of his father – but there is no denying his influence in transforming the Cubs from a last-place team into a championship organization.
Whether it’s helping coach up Kyle Hendricks into a major-league ERA leader – or market trade-deadline chips like Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija – Bosio highlights individual strengths and never believes in a cookie-cutter approach.
“That’s why I love Twitter so much,” said manager Joe Maddon, who was not aware of Anderson’s post on social media or apparent issues with the staff. “How many characters in Twitter?
“To purvey your thoughts, your deepest, darkest thoughts. That’s what the President does every day, oh my God. You get everything out there in 140 characters, my God, it’s so in depth, it’s so meaningful.”
Maddon repeatedly talked up Anderson in spring training as someone who – if healthy – could perform like a top-of-the-rotation starter. Anderson can also be extremely entertaining on Twitter and refreshingly honest while dealing with the media.
“When a guy’s going to say something like that, he’s had a tough year,” Maddon said. “God bless him, I hope he comes back. I hope he wins 20 games next year. I mean that sincerely. But when a player has a tough year, it’s on the player.”
Amid all that optimism in Arizona, Anderson explained how Bosio’s reputation and this pitching infrastructure made the Cubs such an attractive destination to reboot his career.
“It’s one of those things where he’s not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Anderson said after his first Cactus League outing in late February. “It’s more trying to limit the pressure on my back and mild mechanical adjustments where I don’t land on my heel as much – and kind of land on the ball of my foot or my toes – so it’s not such a whiplash effect.
“He’s had a good track record with health, especially the last couple years, and hopefully I can fall in line there, too.”