Even if Nick Anderson doesn't get called up to the Twins, he believes his major league dreams are close to being realized.
"I'm happy," he said. "When the opportunity comes, I'm going to handle it the same. This is what I've been working toward for a handful of years. When it does, it is going to be pretty amazing."
Anderson, a righthander with a 3.41 ERA at Class AAA Rochester and a strikeout rate of 12.9 per nine innings, had been under consideration for a call-up, Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said on Aug. 24. But on Monday, Anderson found out he wasn't being promoted, at least not now.
A promotion for Anderson, who was born in Crosby, Minn., and played at Brainerd High School, would complete an indirect route that includes stops in independent ball and amateur ball — and a little jail time.
Anderson played three seasons at St. Cloud State before transferring to Mayville (N.D.) State. Why? He needed to get out of St. Cloud.
In 2010, he was charged with drunken driving. In 2011, during an early-morning, alcohol-fueled altercation, he struck a man in the head with a bat and was charged with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, a felony. Anderson contends he was coming to the aid of a friend during a fight involving several people. He said he was confronting someone who had a knife and swung the bat while falling backward; he couldn't claim self-defense in court because he didn't live at the address.
He served eight days in jail, paid restitution to the victim, took anger-management classes and went to Alcoholics Anonymous. He was placed on probation, which he completed in 2015.
"I needed to make some changes," Anderson said. "Get out of there, get a fresh start and get on a different path."
The past is past
Anderson knew, when talking to a reporter, that questions about his St. Cloud days were coming. And he didn't hide from them.
"Kids get caught up in stuff and don't necessarily make the best choices," he said. "I always tell people I have made some mistakes but, at the same time, I've learned greatly from them. And I wouldn't be the person that I am today without going through them."
The Brewers drafted him in the 32nd round in 2012 but he never signed, with his court record playing a factor. Milwaukee set him up with the Rockford River Hawks of the Frontier League, where he pitched two largely unimpressive seasons. A tryout with independent Sioux City the next year fell through, and he spent a year remodeling homes while playing for the Tri-City Shark, a Twin Cities amateur team.
"I worked and it was amateur ball, so it was fun," Anderson said, "and so it kind of helped me relax a little bit more and have fun playing baseball again."
In 2015, Anderson hooked on with another independent league team, the Frontier Grays, a last-chance squad that played every game on the road. Anderson posted a 0.65 ERA in 25 games and was spotted by Twins scout Bill Milos. And Milos, after getting an overwhelmingly positive report from Anderson's probation officer, had to persuade the Twins to take a chance.
"Beyond me believing in his ability, all that time pushing to get him signed, I got to know him," Milos said. "Truly know him. We talked a ton. Often late night. Sometimes for an hour, maybe two. … That just further fueled the fight to get him."
First pro contract
Anderson had just finished playing catch one day in July 2015 when he was told that the Twins had purchased his contract. He was 25 and signing his first professional contract.
"To have those words said to me was pretty awesome," Anderson said of the that day.
He made his debut in August for Class A Cedar Rapids and posted a 0.75 ERA in nine appearances. He began 2016 at Cedar Rapids but was promoted after 12 games and a 0.90 ERA.
"He's a hard worker," said Jake Mauer, his manager at Cedar Rapids. "Definitely a guy to cheer for."
Anderson's fastball sits in the mid-90s but has touched 97, and he has a 2.58 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 182 minor league innings.
With his background, one slip-up could end it all. Every day he tries to distance himself from the missteps he took in St. Cloud. And now he's one step away from the majors.
Will that step be with the Twins? He might find out Monday. The Twins must place Anderson on the 40-man roster during the offseason or risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft, so they might want to see him face some major league hitters to help them decide.
If he's not called up, Anderson says he has no problem waiting a little longer.
"He has been through a lot," Milos said. "It's an amazing story. He's not supposed to be here, but he is. Hopefully he can write a few more chapters."