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Antonelli/News Brian Anderson is in a happy place with Yankees as the former outfielder with the White Sox tries to catch on with Bombers as pitcher.Related Stories   Raissman: TBS has own delay problem   CC Sabathia looks forward to fresh start to second  Futbol Tienda half   Chris Stewart double play helps lead Yankees to 5-2 win over Red Sox?   Yankees will watch street fair from dugout, says local merchant leader?       Antonelli/News  Brian Anderson  TAMPA - Growing up, Brian Anderson worshipped Nolan Ryan, admired Orel Hershiser. Whenever his boyhood dreams turned to baseball, he was pitching, his fastball blazing like the lights fixed high above the field, his spikes kicking up clay from the mound. "Pitching," he says, "was always what I wanted to do." But for most of his professional career, Anderson was a pitcher trapped in an outfielder's contract. He went to the University of Arizona as a pitcher, but excelled at his secondary position. He went 8-for-10 in his first two games as a college outfielder and Arizona coaches eventually decided he was too valuable as a hitter to risk injury on the mound. Scouts told him his career - his very bright career - would be in the outfield.The White Sox drafted Anderson with the 15th overall pick in the 2003 draft, giving him $1.6 million to sign. He was instantly their center fielder of the future, a player with offensive potential who offered terrific defense, too, including a splendid throwing arm. Just over two years later, the Sox, who had won the 2005 World Series, traded their starting center fielder, Aaron Rowand, to Philadelphia, figuring Anderson would play the position while they defended their first championship in 88 years and for years to come.But Anderson couldn't seize the job permanently. Once one of baseball's top prospects, he fizzled as a hitter, though he was a good defensive outfielder. As seasons passed, his role shrunk. He bounced around to different teams. Baseball wasn't as fun as it used to be.But, Anderson believed, it could be - if he went back to pitching. After all, he occasionally snuck in bullpen sessions and was forever bugging teammates who were pitchers for details on how they gripped their pitches. With the Red Sox in 2009, he regularly quizzed Jon Lester on how he held his cut fastball. So when he did not make the Royals as an outfielder out of spring training last year, Anderson told them he wanted to switch positions. At first, Kansas City brass tried to talk him out of it because they knew they would probably need Anderson in the majors as an outfielder during the season, but they ultimately agreed and he began converting in the minors. "John Gibbons, one of the (Kansas City) coaches, said to me, 'I think you have what it takes to play the outfield, but I know what kind of arm you have and I'm curious to see you on the mound,'" Anderson recalls. "He could almost see into my soul, how passionate about it I was."Anderson, a pitcher once more, has brought that passion to the Yankees. After the Royals designated him for assignment following the 2010 season, Anderson elected free agency and signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees with an eye toward making the team as a reliever. Late last week at the Yankees' minor-league complex, Anderson, who turns 29 next month, stretched in a circle along with a slew of other hopefuls on a gray, drizzly morning. He threw a bullpen session with new Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild watching and then did conditioning work. At one point, he walked over to watch hitters taking live batting practice, saying, "I live vicariously through them," but he ended up spending most of that time talking to pitching guru Billy Connors.Relearning the craft he believes he was meant for has been exhilarating. "Now that I'm actually pitching," Anderson says, "I feel a huge weight off my shoulders. I couldn't be happier right now. "It's the best time I've had in baseball." * * *There are multiple examples of position players converting to pitching and thriving, including former Yankee manager Bob Lemon, a Hall of Famer who won 20 games seven times. All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman moved from infield to pitcher and 1939 NL MVP Bucky Walters won 198 games. Former Angels and Rays closer Troy Percival converted and so did current Cubs' closer Carlos Marmol, an ex-catcher.Baseball executives are always looking for more. As Oneri Fleita, the Cubs' VP of player personnel, who helped Marmol and Randy Wells convert,   says, "Good arms are hard to find. Plus, converted guys are fresh arms. They don't have a lot of innings on them. They have a lot to learn, but that's OK." Still, "It's not a 100% success rate, but nothing is," says Billy Eppler, the Yankees' director of pro personnel. One of  Dr Dre Studio Beats Sale Eppler's scouts, the former catcher Tom Wilson, saw Anderson pitch in low Class A ball last season and liked him and when Anderson was designated by the Royals, Wilson urged Eppler to consider him."One of the things that was encouraging for us, when Brian  Beats By Dre Dock got to Triple-A, albeit it was only seven innings, his walks were low (one)," Eppler says. "One of the hardest things to do when you make the conversion can be to throw strikes."If you converted a strong-armed outfielder such as Ichiro Suzuki or Vlad Guerrero to pitching, Eppler says, "They would throw hard. The trick is to control it."There are other challenges for a converting pitcher, too - harnessing emotion on the mound, learning to repeat their delivery. "Sometimes they think they just have to throw the ball as hard as they can," Eppler says. Anderson recalls throwing in front of two coaches, Carlos Reyes and Mark Davis, both former major-league pitchers, and thinking, "'I don't want these guys to think this is some gimmick or joke.'"I was throwing four seamers at 94 in my bullpens," he adds. "You only have so many bullets. I had to learn the hard way. I'm a little smarter now, six months later."Converted pitchers also have to learn what all pitchers know - that every twinge in your arm is   not necessarily a catastrophic injury. Sometimes, soreness is just part of the job. "He hadn't learned to warm up," Reyes says. "We had to teach him. If you left him there, he'd probably throw a 100-pitch bullpen session. He'll have his bumps in the road, soreness in the beginning. You learn the difference between soreness and pain."I was a reliever in the big leagues and if my arm didn't hurt, I thought something was wrong. He's got to learn all that. I called him 'Rookie' sometimes. He was like a baby, learning all over again. But when I saw him throw, even just playing catch, I said, 'There's something special here.'" * * *After getting used to the pitching grind, Anderson made his mound debut last July with his mother in the stands, throwing a scoreless inning for the Royals' Class A Rookie League team. "I was like, 'Wow,'" Anderson recalls. "Not that it was easy, but it was like I had never left the mound. I remember thinking, 'This is so great. Surreal.' Here's this 28-year-old guy, facing 19, 20-year-old kids who were probably wondering why I was so pumped up to be on the mound. But I didn't care. I was having a blast." In 14 games as a pitcher, including six at Triple-A, Anderson had a 2.08 ERA and 17 strikeouts, walked five and allowed 10 hits in 17.1 innings. In his final outing, his fastball was clocked between 95-97 mph and he complemented it with a slider and changeup. "I'm not saying he's going to throw 100 (mph)," Reyes says, "but he's got another gear. But he's got to find it himself. He's got to learn how  Beats By Dr Dre Buy to get everything out of himself. It's a big change. It's not simple." But it feels right, certainly to Anderson, and perhaps in a way the outfield never did. "I was given opportunities to shine in the outfield," he says. "I think I did well in some, especially on defense. There were some bright spots in hitting, but I was probably worrying too much about mechanics, thinking negatively. Playing on a defending World Champion team, it got the best of me. I took advantage of the perks and didn't have the type of focus I should've. I worked hard, but I think I just expected to succeed."He doesn't regret his career path, though. "I'm not going to argue when the White Sox give you $1.6 million," he says. "I came from a modest background, hard-working. I never grew up being able to get whatever you wanted. That kind of money made the decision to not pitch very easy."Now he's happy he's pitching. And, according to some who have worked with pitchers who convert, sometimes the switch leads to rejuvenation. "You're out of lifelines, well, here you go," Fleita says. "When you make a guy a pitcher, automatically you see a confidence about him that he never showed as hitter because he knows that he can throw a baseball." The Yankees told Anderson, "If you come in and have a good spring, there's no reason you can't break camp with the team," Anderson says. There's competition for an already-crowded bullpen - Mark Prior, Luis Ayala, among others - though. "If I have to go (to the minors) and work on things, so be it," Anderson says. "But obviously the main goal is to make the team."
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