The same disk that herniated in 2014 blew again last week while Anderson was throwing live batting practice. He said he hadn't felt anything all Spring until the last three pitches of that batting-practice session. The odds of the same disk bulging twice, doctors told Anderson, are 10 percent. But when it comes to injuries, Anderson tends to defy the odds.
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Last year was Anderson's healthiest season since 2009. He went 10-9, made 31 starts and pitched 180 1/3 innings. Before that, his career was one big medical file: a fractured foot, fractured finger, Tommy John surgery and the previous back operation.
A free agent during the past offseason, Anderson turned down multiple-year deals elsewhere and accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers, saying he would bet on himself producing a second healthy season and cash in even bigger next offseason.
"Can't feel sorry for myself," he said. "I made the choice, I bet on myself and lost, but I hope I can make up for it. I told [Brandon McCarthy, elbow surgery], now it's a race between me, you and [Hyun-Jin Ryu, shoulder surgery]. I'd still bet on myself. I have more confidence in myself than anybody but my family. All this stuff I've had to deal with has made me a better player and a better person."
Anderson said the first time he injured the back, doctors repaired the disk and shaved surrounding bone to provide more space. As a result, the pain this time wasn't as sharp as the pain the first time. But because of the scar tissue that had to be cleared out this time, he was more uncomfortable after the surgery.
"The last time I was an outpatient and walked out, this time I was on my back for the most miserable 24 hours," Anderson said. "It was excruciating."
On the bright side, Anderson said last time he was experiencing weakness in his leg and toes that he doesn't have now. That said, the Dodgers have issued a very conservative prognosis of three to five months.
"They're going to take it slow with the second one, because a third one would mean fusion and it could be career ending," Anderson said. "A significant portion of the disk is gone, but the doctor said it's solid. The first time this happened, I was upset, I felt I could have done more to prevent it. This time, I'm not as upset, I did the work, it's not like I skipped out on it. Everything looked good and it just kind of happened. The doctor said this isn't an exact science."
Anderson was greeted by typical clubhouse gallows humor.
"[Clayton Kershaw] said, 'I don't know about your back, but I need a catch buddy,' " Anderson said. "At least he's got his priorities. I'm just a catch dummy."
Anderson said doctors believe he is starting his rehab from a better baseline than last time. He said he's confident he will make it back this year to help his club. And he's optimistic his future will be healthier than his past.
"Maybe I'll be Benjamin Button," he said of the Brad Pitt movie character that ages in reverse. "I'll get all of this out of the way at 28 and start feeling younger."