Anderson excited to be healthy
Conjunctivitis in right eye hindered veteran in 2007 ALDS
ANAHEIM -- Garret Anderson comes into the 2008 postseason in an infinitely improved physical condition over where he was at this time last year. For one thing, he can see through both eyes.
Now it can be told: Anderson, the most productive position player in Angels history, really thought he was seeing with two eyes against the Red Sox last October, but he was only half correct.
A case of conjunctivitis in his right eye left him with clear vision in only his left eye. This was a severe handicap for a left-handed hitter trying to deal with the heaters of Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon, among others. The reddened, swollen right eye was trying to convince him it was functional, but it was not.
"What I found out after the season after going to an eye specialist was that I thought I was seeing all right, but I was really only seeing out of my left eye," Anderson said. "Most left-handed hitters are front-eye dominant; that's the eye you lead with. So not having vision in the right eye is not a good thing, obviously.
"I was basically legally blind. I went to see him for another 2 1/2 months after the season, getting eye tests, making sure it was going to be OK. I asked the doctor, 'Why would I feel I could still see clearly?' He explained that your brain shifts over and sees out of the good eye, making you think you're actually seeing normally when you're not.
"It was pretty fascinating the way he described it. He gave me some glasses and I put them on, and everything was crisp. Then he explained it all, why my brain was trying to tell me I could see out of the bad eye even though I couldn't."
Given that the eye was practically shut throughout the American League Division Series, it seemed strange that Anderson kept insisting he was good enough to compete.
"That's why I was telling Mike [Scioscia, the Angels' manager] and the media that I was all right, that I could see," Anderson said. "If I'd felt it was dangerous, I wouldn't put myself out there. I wouldn't put myself at that risk or jeopardize the team by doing that."
Anderson played left field in the first two games at Fenway Park, night games, and was able to see well enough to collect a pair of hits in Game 2 and get by defensively.
When the Angels, down two games and in dire straits, returned home for Game 3 at Angel Stadium to face Curt Schilling in the bright daylight, Anderson was hopeful he'd help kick-start a revival from the cleanup spot.
"I actually hit a line drive off the first pitch I saw," Anderson said, the shot caught by right fielder J.D. Drew to close the first inning. "I was thinking, 'OK, I can do this.' I wasn't worried about picking up the ball in the outfield. I thought I could protect myself."
But when a ball was hit down the left-field line by Mike Lowell in the second inning, Anderson realized he was out of his element completely.
"I thought it was in the stands," Anderson said. "When it fell in fair territory, I said to myself, 'OK, I gotta get out of here.' There was too much glare. When it gets dangerous, I'm not going to play. Our game is all about vision, seeing the ball."
The list of Angels injuries for that series went on and on. It is easier to point out that Orlando Cabrera was relatively healthy.
Gary Matthews Jr. (left knee tendinitis) was unable to suit up. Vladimir Guerrero (knee, shoulder, elbow), Chone Figgins (left wrist), Mike Napoli (right hamstring), Howie Kendrick (fractured left index finger) were trying to get over or play through pain. Former Angel Casey Kotchman contracted food poisoning in Boston and was hospitalized for Game 3. Twin aces John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar were pitching with right shoulder issues.
Anderson has been seeing the ball well enough to become a second-half force, just as he was in 2007. After the All-Star break, he batted .335 with a .360 on-base percentage and .467 slugging percentage.
The Angels, as a whole, are significantly healthier this time around.
"It's one less thing you have to deal with," Anderson said. "You always have a lot of things to deal with this time of year, and that's one less thing. That's all it is. It doesn't say you're going to win or lose. It just helps clear your mind of something."
Enriched by Torii Hunter, Jon Garland and Mark Teixeira, the Angels put together a franchise-record 100 wins, more than any team in the Majors. They won 50 at home, 50 on the road.
"No matter what happens now," Anderson, a headliner on the 2002 World Series champion Angels, "this is probably the best team I've ever played on."
In his case, seeing is believing.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.