PHOENIX — There is no doubt that Brett Anderson is a stand-up guy who wants to be the leader of the A's rotation.
What is less clear is whether or not the A's need him to fill the role of a classic leader the way Dave Stewart did it in Oakland a generation ago.
Stewart was outgoing, bold, an oversized personality at the top of a pitching staff that needed that. Bob Welch, Mike Moore, Storm Davis, Ron Darling, Curt Young and the like were good pitchers, but Stewart ground out 20-win seasons and ground up American League hitters in the process.
More than once, with the A's backs against the wall, Stewart huddled with his teammates before big games and "guaranteed" a win. And he produced.
By his own admission, Anderson doesn't have that kind of personality. He's perfectly willing to talk and engage the media, but he's not ready to do stand-up routines. If what the A's need is someone to rally the troops with his vocal cords, he's not the right fit.
But heading into the 2013 season, the A's need someone at the top of the totem pole, the kind of leader who leads by example on the field, and by that definition, Anderson is a good fit.
"I think every teams needs a pitcher where they can say, &‘we feel this is our ace,'" Young, now the team's pitching coach, said. "And Brett has put himself in that position. There are different kinds of leaders.
"Brett wants to be seen as one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. As he does that, he'll lead by example."
Anderson came back from shoulder surgery last year and won his first four decisions. Then, after one loss, he was taken out in the third inning of a game in Detroit with a right oblique injury. Other pitchers might have called it a season, but Anderson fought to come back and managed to start and win Game 3 of the playoffs, throwing six shutout innings while holding the vicious Tigers lineup to two hits.
"It was important to me to get out there, to help the team," Anderson said. "I felt the oblique just a little in that game, but I was able to rest it after that and haven't felt it since."
As for the leadership role, Anderson, ever the team player, sees a role that needs to be filled.
"It's a little weird; I'm 25 and I have some of the longest tenure on the club," he said. "I don't know how that happened. I don't classify myself as old. But I have to be more of a leader. I'm not a rah-rah, vocal guy, but guys can come ask questions. And maybe some of the eccentric personality will come out now."
Bob Melvin has never had the leader of a pitching staff in any of his three stops as a manager — Seattle, then Arizona before Oakland — be so young. "Maybe Brandon Webb in Arizona, but he was 26, 27," Melvin said.
"We needed a leader last year, and we had (Brandon) McCarthy," Melvin said of McCarthy, who now is with the Diamondbacks. "We don't need one so much this year. We had Jarrod Parker start Game 1 of the playoffs last year, which is huge for a pitcher in his first big league season. And he pitched great. Our kids, all of them, did a lot of growing up last year.