April 18, 2012 at 10:30 AM
|Lars Anderson (Kelly O'Connor)|
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Lars Anderson might not be experimenting with a new position in left field had he not taken his mother’s suggestion this past offseason.
The 24-year-old, who had spent nearly all of his time as a first baseman in the Red Sox organization, wanted to try his hand at a new position to increase both his versatility and his marketability as a player. Although this experiment first manifested itself in spring training, Anderson had the idea when he was called up last year.
“I had asked [Mike Hazen] to [try left field] when I got called up last year, but I think it was so crazy up there that they didn’t want to take the project on,” said Anderson. “I figured I would give him a call—it was actually a suggestion of my mom—and put that in their minds before spring training so they had some time to think about it.”
Anderson is well-aware of the fact that he is blocked at first base for the next seven years by the All-Star Adrian Gonzalez, so he knows that getting experience at another position will afford him more opportunity to get into the lineup.
“I just feel one-dimensional playing first base, and I’m athletic enough to play in the outfield,” he said. “Any way to get into the lineup and make an impact—be it here or somewhere else—it makes a player more attractive if [he] can play a lot of positions.”
Left field was not a random choice; it was actually the most logical outfield position for Anderson to try—especially since the infield is not an option for him because he’s left-handed.
“I don’t have a great arm and I’m left-handed, so I can’t play any other position other than the outfield,” said Anderson. “In right field you have to have a really good arm, and I don’t think I’m a center fielder. Maybe I could turn into a right fielder, but left field is the most logical.”
For Anderson, playing left field is more different than it looks, and it has given him a new perspective that he didn’t have when he was playing first base.
“All the plays that look routine—like a ball down the line that’s ricocheting off the wall—it’s a lot more difficult than it looks,” he said. “The throwing is a lot different because at first base I’m usually throwing the ball around the infield or back to the pitcher.
“You also see the game develop differently. At first base when a double play ball is hit my head is down and I’m running to first base. In left field, I get to see how it takes place from a perspective that’s 100 feet back.”
Playing left field is not the only new perspective Anderson has this season. Anderson saw himself have a significantly better spring training with the major league club than he did last year, when he went hitless. He attributed his good spring to a change in his hitting mechanics that gave him new-found confidence in his swing.
“I’ve always felt prepared physically, but my swing doesn’t usually feel good going into the spring, and this year that was not the case,” he said. “I just felt really confident about my swing. I really believed in it.”
Anderson thinks subtle mechanical changes made the difference, saying, “I was just trying to free my hands a little bit and not be so wrapped, so I think I just felt really good.”
2012 is Anderson’s third year with Triple-A Pawtucket, and he has used his time there to his advantage. Unlike the common consensus that the jump from High A to Double-A is the hardest jump in the minors, Anderson actually thinks the jump from Double-A to Triple-A is the hardest.
“Triple-A pitching is pretty difficult,” he said. “Pitchers here won’t give in. If you’re sitting [on a] 3-1 count, you’re liable to see any pitch. When you’re in hitter’s counts in lower levels, you’re usually getting a fastball—it makes hitting a lot easier, but here I had an at-bat the other night where I saw six sliders in a row.”
As he enters his sixth year with the organization, Anderson hopes that his new mechanics and new position will lead to new opportunities.
Elizabeth Dreeson is a Special Contributor for SoxProspects.com. Follow her on Twitter @Eli_Dreesox.