Brian Anderson's custom, size 9 1/2 Nike cleats finally arrived at his Rays locker Friday morning. Instead, the box sitting on a chair in front of his locker was a cruel reminder of how close the likeable left-handed pitcher was to resuscitating his career.
"Nike's just a little late," joked Anderson, who underwent an MRI on Thursday showing a career-ending tear in the ulnar collateral ligament and the flexor mass muscle in his left elbow.
The 35-year old veteran, who spent all of 2007 rehabbing from two previous Tommy John ligament replacement surgeries, was a month ahead of his scheduled rehab and approaching peak velocity.
His Spring Training debut on Saturday marked the first time in 17 months Anderson had pitched in a game situation. Now, less than a week later, it is time to literally hang up his cleats.
"What made it difficult is getting a taste," said Anderson on Friday morning.
"Coming back here, putting the uniform on, going back out there and getting a chance to make relationships."
Anderson's ill fate came Wednesday in his second spring outing, also against the Yankees. Anderson left the game with no outs and a 2-1 count on Bobby Abreu. At the time, he said he felt something strange, and decided to err on the cautious side.
The ensuing MRI confirmed his worst fear, and marked the end of Anderson's attempted comeback.
The lefty said he felt great warming up Wednesday and had experienced no pain on the mound until his third pitch to Abreu when he heard a noise similar to to that of shredding paper.
Anderson emphatically denies he moved his recovery along too fast, saying he was never pushed or felt he was throwing prematurely.
"It's easier to take because I know we did it the right way," said Anderson. "So there's nothing else we could have done. There's no regrets."
While Anderson said he definitely took time to feel bad, manager Joe Maddon continued to express his deepest sympathies for the 35-year-old lefty.
"It kind of had me bummed out all night [Wednesday] night," said Maddon, who said he called Anderson yesterday on the team bus ride home from Fort Myers.
"Of course he's being stoic, but I could tell he was emotional about it also."
Stoic is a word rarely associated with the vivacious Anderson, whose personality and experience were an enticing package for Tampa Bay.
The Rays signed him to a Minor League contract in January, and the veteran was ecstatic to get another chance to make it to the Major Leagues.
"This is what he wanted to do, he wanted to do it with us," Maddon said. "He likes what's happening here right now, and we thought he could've been a part of what we're trying to do this year."
As for Anderson's new plans for the season, he remains uncertain. What he does know is he will be around the game in some facet.
"It's like a drug, really it is," Anderson said of baseball. "It's just so fun to go do that."
Maddon also took time to reflect on Anderson as a person, praising his intelligence and mentioning the obvious talent Anderson has as a potential coach or in a front-office capacity.
"He's definitely got a place in this game, and I think he can be in this game for a long time and do very well," Maddon said.
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.