White Sox prodigies learn the ropes
Anderson, McCarthy soak in the playoff atmosphere
HOUSTON -- Look closely at the wild White Sox celebration following Scott Podsednik's walk-off home run in Game 2 of the World Series on Sunday night, and Brian Anderson becomes fairly hard to miss.
Actually, you don't have to search very hard to find the 23-year-old Anderson. As soon as the television cameras panned to the White Sox euphoric dugout, there was Anderson, leaping over the railing and turning to center fielder Aaron Rowand as almost if to say, "Are you kidding me?"
Those words came from Anderson in the clubhouse after the 7-6 victory, with a few more colorful but unprintable adjectives added into his analysis. Anderson rejoined the White Sox, along with switching-hitting outfielder Joe Borchard, first baseman/pinch-hitter Ross Gload and catcher Raul Casanova, basically as injury insurance policies for the World Series.
Being part of the Division Series sweep over Boston, along with the first two wins over Houston, has paid huge dividends for the White Sox first-round selection in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. And Anderson hasn't even taken one at-bat or spent an inning in the field.
The same scenario has played out for Brandon McCarthy, the rookie right-hander, who played an even more significant role than Anderson in the White Sox current success story. McCarthy has been with the White Sox since the start of the playoffs and has been a roster consideration prior to every postseason round.
In the final roster shakeout, though, Anderson and McCarthy are both simply learning about what it takes to be a champion by watching and listening.
"I'm just glad to be here and really enjoying the experience," Anderson said. "I think it's a smart play on the manager and general manager's part to bring the younger guys up here. If we are in this situation again, we have already been through it and already see what it's like.
"All my friends are at home and watching this stuff and I'm sitting in the dugout. It doesn't get much better than this."
Anderson hit .176 over 34 at-bats and 13 games for the White Sox in 2005. But he gave anxious fans a little taste of what's to come during a game at Seattle's Safeco Field on Aug. 26.
Facing Felix Hernandez, the Mariners' 19-year-old hurler with an overpowering fastball, Anderson knocked out three hits and launched his first two Major League home runs. Even with that glimpse of success, Anderson realizes there's still a great deal of road left to cover on his Major League journey.
But after sitting through this thrilling postseason, Anderson has a reinvigorated sense of confidence and high hopes in regard to finding a place on the 2006 25-man roster.
"I have a chance to make the team, and you really have to think like that," Anderson said. "If you don't think you have a chance, you definitely won't make it. I'll come into Spring Training and give it all I've got. If I get a spot, that will be awesome."
The postseason learning experience has been fraught with a little more frustration for McCarthy. The top pitching prospect in the organization became one of the White Sox most consistent performers in the starting rotation, after being recalled from Triple-A Charlotte on Aug. 30.
McCarthy posted a 3-1 record with a 1.69 ERA in seven games, with five of them being starts. Those trips to the mound included stellar efforts at Fenway Park against Boston and at home against the Angels.
Those eight earned runs allowed over his final 42 2/3 innings, though, weren't enough to supplant Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez's unparalleled postseason experience. The decision has left McCarthy in a bit of a quandary during the team's first three celebrations of note, starting with clinching the American League Central in Detroit on Sept. 29.
"I'm real self-conscious during them," McCarthy said. "You are spraying champagne and I don't feel like I did anything to be part of the celebration. It's great to be there for them, but there's also this little battle in your head ... 'What did I contribute?'
"People tell me that [I] did [my] part for this. But knowing who I am, it's tough to accept. I'm kind of one of those, 'What have you done for me lately?' guys. I haven't done anything here lately. It's tough that way.
"It's kind of a mixed emotion thing, but on the whole, it's positive," McCarthy added. "Just to see this and say you were a part of it, that's a great feeling."
McCarthy quickly adds with a laugh that he probably wouldn't be pitching at this point anyway, after setting a career high with 180 1/3 innings between Charlotte and the White Sox. Once the World Series comes to a close, either in Houston or back in Chicago this weekend, the 22-year-old plans to shut down for a couple of weeks before throwing the baseball and the football once again.
That's right. McCarthy also uses the football as a way to strengthen his pitching arm. Depending on the White Sox future plans with Hernandez and Jon Garland, for that matter, McCarthy could be competing for a spot in the 2006 starting rotation. For now, he's a fidgety observer.
"I understand the situation," McCarthy said. "We have 26 guys and 25 spots. It's simple numbers. They deserve it over me because they have been here all year. But once those competitive juices get flowing during the season, it's hard to turn them off."
"For our guys to be able to play, they have to play winning baseball," added White Sox director of player development David Wilder. "Being around this situation and handling some things and seeing how others are handling the playoff atmosphere, it will definitely help them."
Anderson, who could have a future as a slightly off-color late-night stand-up comic if the baseball venture doesn't pan out, is having fun with his time on the sidelines. When asked Sunday what he was adding to the championship equation, Anderson delivered a light-hearted response without changing from his serious demeanor.
"Hopefully Jermaine [Dye] doesn't forget any batting gloves or Pods [Scott Podsednik] doesn't forget a bat," Anderson said, cracking a smile. "I'll be the one sprinting up there to get it for them.
"I'm grateful to have this opportunity. I mean, it's just amazing to be here."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.