Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Anderson giving second base a go
Arkansas second baseman Brian Anderson throws to first during game two of the series against Appalachian State on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - This season technically isn’t the first time Arkansas junior Brian Anderson has played second base, but it’s been a while.
Anderson said his mother told him he played second base in tee ball when he was 4 years old.
“I don’t really remember,” Anderson said of his tee ball playing days. “So this is something new, but I think I’m coming around to it a little bit.
“The coaches are definitely behind me and helping me out. I think I can handle it.”
Anderson is hitting .458 with nine RBI for the Razorbacks (6-0) going into this weekend’s series against South Alabama, so he’ll be somewhere in the lineup, but Arkansas Coach Dave Horn made the decision to move him to second base in the fall.
Last season when Anderson batted .325, he divided his starts between third base (21 games), shortstop (14), left field (22) and center field (2). He had 20 errors - most on infield throws the first half of the season - and moved to the outfield.
The Razorbacks are well-stocked in the outfield, but had a hole at second base with the dismissal of Jordan Farris. Van Horn said it was logical to move Anderson to second with his infield experience. It helps that he doesn’t have to make throws to first base across the field.
“He’s got a tremendous arm and a little better feel at second,” Van Horn said before the season. “He’s going throw a ball away here and there - everybody does - but you can tell he’s not thinking about it.”
Anderson has four errors in six starts at second, but Van Horn remains confident he’ll adjust well.
“He’s still learning, but he’s pretty good there,” Van Horn said. “He’s got a lot of range.
“I think he’s played well. He’s made some tough plays, too.”
Anderson said he takes pride in his defense and is working to become more consistent.
“It’s not really something I’m worried about,” he said. “It’s just something I need to continue to get better at, but I think I’m on the right track.”
There is no doubt about Anderson’s ability to hit, and he said settling in at second base should help his offense.
“It’s hard to hit better than what he did last year, but he’s just so smart,” Arkansas right fielder Tyler Spoon said. “It’s almost like he knows what’s coming every time.
“He’s so clutch when runners are on base and we need a hit, and he’s able to come through. He’s waiting for that pitch to hit, and when he’s getting it, he’s hammering it.”
Anderson hit a three-run home run to help Arkansas rally for an 8-3 victory over Eastern Illinois last Saturday. He has two doubles, been hit by pitches three times and walked once.
“Brian’s showing more maturity at the plate,” Razorbacks catcher Jake Wise said. “Last year he was the best hitter on our team, and people would pitch around him, and he didn’t really like that.
“He thought he’d go out of the zone and try to hit bad pitches. This year he’s understood that if they go out of the zone, he’s got to take them and trust the guy behind him is going to pick him up.”
Van Horn said Anderson is a better hitter this season because he’s older, bigger and stronger.
“So far he hasn’t shown he feels a lot of pressure to hit home runs,” Van Horn said. “He’s just hitting line drives through the middle and driving in runs.”
Anderson, who hit four home runs last season, said he has more power to drive the ball into the outfield gaps.
“I think I’m doing a better job of handling off-speed pitches,” he said. “Knowing what to look for, understanding I might not get the exact pitch I’m looking for, but just to handle what the pitcher gives me.”
Wise said that as the season goes on, he expects Anderson to play second base as well as he hits.
“It’s always hard when you start a new position, but he’s a good athlete and the longer he’s there, the better he’s going to get at it,” Wise said. “By the end of the year, you won’t be able to tell that he hadn’t played second base before this season.”
Unless you count that tee ball stint.
Today’s game ARKANSAS VS. SOUTH ALABAMA WHEN 3:05 p.m.
WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS S. Alabama 3-4; Arkansas 6-0 RANKINGS Arkansas is No. 24 in the Baseball America poll RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com and ESPN3 PITCHING MATCHUP South Alabama: Matt Bell (RHP, 1-0, 2.03 ERA); Arkansas: Jalen Beeks (LHP, 2-0, 0.00)THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY vs. S. Alabama, 3:05 p.m.
SATURDAY vs. S. Alabama, 12:05 p.m.
SUNDAY vs. South Alabama, 1:05 p.m.
MONDAY vs. IPFW, 3:05 p.m.
TUESDAY Off WEDNESDAY Off THURSDAY Off FRIDAY vs. San Francisco*, 4:30 p.m.
- Cal Baseball Classic (Berkeley, Calif.)
Today’s game ARKANSAS VS. SOUTH ALABAMA WHEN 3:05 p.m.
WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS South Alabama 3-4; Arkansas 6-0 RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com and ESPN3 PITCHING MATCHUP South Alabama: Matt Bell (RHP, 1-0, 2.03 ERA); Arkansas: Jalen Beeks (LHP, 2-0, 0.00)
Sports, Pages 19 on 02/28/2014