SARASOTA, Fla. -- Brady Anderson said yesterday that he could accept staying in left field if rookie Curtis Goodwin took over in center. But he said he probably would be less understanding if Goodwin replaced him as the team's leadoff hitter.
"I've been very successful as a leadoff hitter the past three years, from any perspective you want to judge a leadoff hitter by," Anderson said yesterday. "It's a little confusing for me to even hear I might be moved."
Anderson spoke briefly with Orioles manager Phil Regan for the first time yesterday, and said he got the impression that he would remain in the leadoff spot.
Regan, however, repeated what he had said virtually all winter: Goodwin, 22, will be given a chance to jump from Double-A into the Orioles' starting lineup as the leadoff hitter and center fielder.
"I'll probably move him around in different positions, but I'd like to see him start as a leadoff hitter," Regan said. "I'm not saying Brady Anderson will not be the leadoff man. I'm saying we'll try several different people in that role, then we'll pick one."
Regan indicated over the winter that he might drop Anderson to the sixth spot if Goodwin made the club. Yesterday, he raised the possibility that Goodwin could hit ninth, with Anderson remaining in the leadoff spot.
Anderson, 31, left no doubt he wants to continue hitting first. Asked if it's more important to him to lead off than play center, he said, "probably, yeah." His statistics suggest he is one of the game's top leadoff men, not a candidate to be replaced by an unproven rookie.
Anderson has the most extra-base hits (158) of any leadoff man the past three seasons. He has scored more runs in that stretch than Lenny Dykstra. And last season, he stole 31 bases in 32 attempts (.969), a major-league record for 25 or more steals.
"I want to hear what [Regan] has to say, " Anderson said. "He talked to me a little bit today, and said we've got to talk, that some things didn't come out right. I didn't know what that meant exactly. It's always something, isn't it?"
At least the past two springs.
Anderson moved to center under former manager Johnny Oates last spring, but returned to left after Mike Devereaux struggled in right and had to be moved back to center. This season, with Devereaux gone as a free agent, he figured he'd finally return to his favorite position.
"Part of me feels like I should just be in center," Anderson said. "It's a very strange thing for me to even think about. Part of me wonders, why is there even a question? Why aren't I automatically in center? Why is there even a discussion?"
Another part of him knows the answer: He's one of the best left fielders in the game. Anderson led American League left fielders with a 1.000 fielding percentage last season. And left is an especially important position at Camden Yards.
Still, he made 34 starts in center last season, most when Devereaux was injured. He said he was surprised to learn this winter that Regan was considering giving Goodwin the job.
"Yeah, a little bit," Anderson said. "I played really well in center field last year. It just seemed like I was going to be there. I just want to play where I think I'm best for the team. I also feel the team misses out a little bit if I'm not in center.
"Defense is something I take a lot of pride in, and something that comes pretty naturally to me. I feel to really get the best out of me defensively, that's where I should be. But if I'm in left, there are things I can do over there that others can't do defensively."
Whatever happens, Anderson figures to accept his role without complaint. He is a close friend of Cal Ripken's, and approaches the game much the same way. He said he does not want to create a disturbance, he only wants what's best for the team.
"When Johnny called me into his office last year and told me I was moving back to left, I totally understood it," Anderson said. "I didn't want Devo to struggle in right field. I didn't want any of my teammates to struggle at the position they're playing.
"It's not a selfish thing where I have to play center field. I just want to be in a position to help the team most. And center is where most of the action is."
"I keep thinking I'm going to end up there," Anderson added, "but things keep happening."
How Brady Anderson compares to the top leadoff hitters in baseball the past three seasons, with Anderson's rankings in
Player .. .. .. .. ..On-base pct. .. ..Runs .. .EBH* ...RBIs .....SB
Brady Anderson.. .. .. .365 (6) .. ..265 (5) .158 (1) .194 (2) .108 (4)
Lenny Dykstra.. .. ... .405 .. .. ...264 .. ..129 .. ..129 .. ...82
Devon White.. .. .. .. .320 .. .. ...281 .. ..156 .. ..161 .. ...82
Kenny Lofton.. .. .. . .393 .. .. ...317 .. ..118 .. ..141 .. ..196
Marquis Grissom.. .. . .338 .. .. ...299 .. ..145 .. ..206 .. ..167
Rickey Henderson.. ... .425 .. .. ...257 .. ..100 .. ..125 .. ..123
Tony Phillips.. .. ... .413 .. .. ...318 .. ..120 .. ..182 .. ...41
Brett Butler.. .. .. . .403 .. .. ...245 .. ...90 .. ..114 .. ..107
Note: Grissom batted third for much of last season with Montreal (statistics above are overall).