PHOENIX When A's manager Bob Melvin went to left-hander Brett Anderson the other day to tell him he'd be the Opening Day starter, Anderson said Melvin "looked like he wanted a hug."
He didn't get one, although Anderson said "if he (still) wants a hug, I'll give him one."
Melvin will have to settle for having the most veteran of his young pitching staff leading a group that was among the most effective in the game last year.
"It's exciting to be the one they want to go to to give the team a chance to win," Anderson said in the matter-of-fact way he'd talk about what kind of sunscreen to use. "I'm not going to jump up and down. But I take pride in that."
Anderson, who threw two scoreless innings in the A's 5-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs in Mesa on Thursday, is likely to be matched against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez on April 1 in Oakland, or "at least I assume it will be Felix," he said. "It's an honor."
All the other starters had assumed the 25-year-old would be the Opening Day pitcher. Bartolo Colon is still under suspension for performance-enhancing drug use dating to last season, and Anderson is the only one of the eligible candidates who wasn't a rookie last year.
And while he pitched in only six games in 2012, those were in the heat of a pennant race after coming back from Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery.
"We think he will be successful for us," Melvin said in making the announcement. "We feel he's the man to lead off for us."
Anderson, picked up in the Dan Haren trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007, stepped into the fire of last season's pennant race and went 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA, and with a little offensive support could have won at least once more. He was backed by a total of just two runs in his two losses.
Although Anderson said he's feeling good after a full winter off, he was feeling some pain in the playoffs when he went out to face the Detroit Tigers and shut down one of baseball's most dangerous offenses.
Anderson was the starter Thursday against the Cubs, going two innings and giving up one hit. Four of his six outs were on ground balls.
"Today was good," he said. "I'm healthy. It's good to get the ground balls, although I don't know if I can sustain 10-plus per game."
Asked about the best assets that Anderson brings to the game, Melvin didn't have to dig deep.
"For me, it's a tie," the manager said. "For one, it's his competitiveness. And second, it's his stuff. Out of uniform if you met him, just to look at him, you would never guess how competitive he is.
"And he throws hard. He can turn sliders into curves. He can get the ball to the back foot of right-handed hitters, and he can (throw a) back door (slider) to right-handers."
Notes It was a bit of an odd day for Derek Norris. He got hit on the batting helmet by his bat on the follow-through of a swing. And he hit a homer, making him the first A's hitter with multiple homers this spring.
Closer Grant Balfour saw a doctor two weeks after having a bit of meniscus removed from his right knee. Balfour, who threw 35 pitches on flat ground in the morning, is looking for clearance to throw off the mound.
Outfielder Chris Young was put through a second day of hard running. If his sore right quad comes through without pain, he could be back in a lineup this weekend.
Outfielder Michael Choice continues to make good on his vow to make a favorable impression in camp. He doubled, tripled and drove in a run. "Right-handers, left-handers, they don't matter to him," Melvin said. "He came here to make an impression, and he has." Choice is hitting .500 this spring.