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Healthy Anderson bodes well for Halos

Healthy Anderson bodes well for Angels

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Garret Anderson hasn't felt this good in a long time.

"Since the end of '03," the Angels' venerable left fielder said on Friday morning.

Knock on wood, the brand wielded by Anderson for 13 Major League seasons.

Since 2004, when he experienced what he calls "inflammation issues with my joints," Anderson has played through discomfort whenever possible and yielded to pain at times, such as during that '04 season, when he played 112 games -- after averaging 157 games for eight seasons.

From 2000-2003, Anderson averaged 30 homers and 120 RBIs, putting him in a class attended by few hitters.

Watching Anderson hit, run, field and throw this spring, manager Mike Scioscia sees that player back in form, ready to bust out the whipping stick.

"His physical skills haven't been diminished by age as much as by injury," Scioscia said, "and I think it's going to show this year. I think he's doing things that he did before he was banged up. Everything is back to where it was a couple years ago.

"As of now, he hasn't had to alter one thing. He's done everything, every baserunning drill, every outfield drill, everything. He's feeling good playing baseball -- and that's a good thing to see."

Anderson will tell you he's never had a serious injury -- by his definition, something that needed surgical attention. But he has endured a series of aches and pains in the past few seasons, even though there was nothing terribly wrong with 17 homers and 96 RBIs in 2005.

He's coming off a subpar season, hitting .280 -- 19 points off his career average -- with 17 homers and 85 RBIs.

A modified training program featuring more stretching than in the past has his body feeling younger and more elastic this spring.

"Having a spur in your foot ... it's the luck of the draw," he said, referring to one of those aggravating issues of the past few seasons. "Your body's changing. From that standpoint, it's just something you deal with.

"I started early, and most 34-year-olds haven't played this much. I have a lot of miles on my body."

Anderson enters into his 14th season with 2,081 career hits, but 3,000 -- a magical number that catches the attention of Hall of Fame voters -- isn't yet on Anderson's private radar.

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"In my opinion, when you look at stuff like that, it takes away from what you're doing that day," he said. "I'm not thinking about yesterday, and I'm not thinking about tomorrow. I'm thinking about today.

"I don't think about how long I can do it. It's how my body's going to feel. When players start walking out the door, it's because they feel they can't play any more. I'll play for as long as my skills allow me to play."

Just as his stroke hasn't been altered through the years, his image as the most serene of Angels, keeping his innermost thoughts to himself, also remains fairly intact.

But Anderson said he's not as self-contained as people might think. He remains inquisitive and continues to seek advice from authority figures -- those he feels can help him with finer points in his quest to master a demanding craft.

"I ask a lot of questions," Anderson said. "Very few players have the ability to come up here and do great things by themselves. You have to ask, you have to learn. Talent is only going to take you so far.

"I still talk to George Hendrick about hitting, to Eddie Murray. I never stop asking questions. Eddie tells me to keep it simple. Obviously, we go into more depth, but that's basically his message: keep it simple.

"I've never had anybody teach me how to hit. I've made various adjustments along the way, but not any changes. You have to be comfortable with what you're doing up there. I like to think about the mental part of the game -- where my head is, not where my bat is."

As the Angels move into a new era, young performers replacing familiar names in key roles, Anderson is in a position to impart wisdom to younger teammates. He's happy to help, and he's always available, he said -- but he won't take the initiative.

"My personality is I'm not going to put my hand on a guy's shoulder and say, 'Let's talk,'" Anderson said. "If they come ask me questions, I'll answer them all day long.

"That's what I did when I was a younger player. I asked veteran players questions all the time."

Asked if younger Angels have been seeking his counsel, Anderson said, "Not too much. It's up to the player. I'm here if they need me."

That is certainly comforting to Scioscia, who anticipates a lot of noise from Vladimir Guerrero and Anderson in the heart of the order.

"I don't know if we've ever seen them where both were in the lineup healthy," Scioscia said, a notion Anderson confirms with a nod of the head. "It'll be exciting to see what a healthy Garret can do behind Vlad -- because as many times as Vlad cleans that table, he sets it just as many times."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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