FORT MYERS, Fla. — Lost in the hoopla of the Red Sox trading for one of the best first basemen in the game is the fact that they have a pretty intriguing guy at the position still knocking on the door.
Lars Anderson, once considered the top position player on the farm, continues to focus on the next step of his professional career. It’s all he can do as he remains somewhat blocked from a starting role with the big club.
Essentially, to Anderson, nothing changed all that much when Boston brought in Adrian Gonzalez, presumably for the next several seasons once an extension is solidified. Anderson remains a bit in the shadows, only the shape of the shadow has changed.
“We’ve had an All-star first baseman there since 2004,” Anderson said, referring to Kevin Youkilis, who actually took over the position in 2006. “I’m just gonna keep working, man.”
Early on, the work has paid off and turned a few heads. Not only has Anderson continued to make vast improvements defensively, but he got in one of the early blows of Grapefruit League with a home run in the opener.
Both of those scenarios have kept a degree of attention on Anderson, even with Gonzalez in camp.
“If you’re a corner you’ve got to make some noise with your bat, and it was exciting to see him do that,” said manager Terry Francona. “With Adrian not playing it’s going to get Lars some at-bats.
“I think he’s in a good place. I think he knows that regardless of who we have here, if he goes to Triple-A and just puts up his numbers, he’ll be fine.”
Only because he was so highly regarded early in his minor league career, it seems as if Anderson has been around for a long time. He’s just 23, still younger than most of the competition at the Triple-A level, where he got his feet wet in 2010. He’s just 23, still younger than most of the competition at the Triple-A level, where he got his feet wet in 2010.
In 113 games at Pawtucket (after raking for 17 games at Double-A Portland), Anderson hit .262 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs. It was what he did late in that stint that showed that an adjustment had been made—Anderson hit .306 (63-for-206) over his final 56 games with the PawSox before his September promotion.
While he had limited opportunities with the Red Sox down the stretch, he was able to take in the experience, and showed in that little time that he had made great leaps with the leather. That has continued in a major way this spring as Anderson, playing every day with Gonzalez sidelined, has been one of the more impressive defenders on the club.
“He’s come so far it’s amazing. Like night and day,” Francona said. “When he first came here you could tell he didn’t want the ball hit to him. Now he wants to make a play. There’s a big difference. He spent a lot of time trying to get together. He’s come a long way.”
Anderson said he is “excited” to watch Gonzalez play once he gets in there. The club has seen nothing to suggest frustration on Anderson’s part in seeing a possible path to the majors blocked.
“He understands,” Francona said. “We tell everyone, it might not be on your timetable, but if you can play…You don’t see too many guys at Triple-A who can really play [not make it] to the big leagues. Things have a way of working out.”
The final hurdle for Anderson, aside from perhaps breaking through with another organization if it comes to that, is ensuring that he keeps a positive outlook on things.
“That mental aspect, I think that takes care of a lot of physical things,” he said of one of his goals for 2011. “Just having a short memory, everything’s really important at the moment but that at-bat in the third inning that you rolled over doesn’t really have any lasting significance in your life.
“I think it’s important to just be able to say, ‘OK, yeah, that happened, let it just float down the river.'”
That’s the attitude that has kept one of the system’s top talents from making too much of who stands in his way.
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