Rays’ Nick Anderson had more than arm fatigue in October

The reliever says the mental fatigue of being sequestered in “the bubble” took more of a toll than he expected.
The Rays' Nick Anderson plays catch during a spring training workout at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.
The Rays' Nick Anderson plays catch during a spring training workout at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. [ WILL VRAGOVIC | Tampa Bay Rays ]
Published Feb. 22, 2021|Updated Feb. 22, 2021

The last time Nick Anderson addressed reporters, he was discussing his role in the Rays’ just-ended World Series Game 6 loss, acknowledging that fatigue had been an issue, how he felt out of gas and his pitching velocity down.

That made sense, given how heavily he had been used during the postseason, especially after the disjointed lead-up to the season and sprint-like nature of the 60-game schedule.

And it seemed a reasonable explanation why he hadn’t been his usual sharp self, his inability to get out the Dodgers in the sixth inning — yes, after manager Kevin Cash pulled Blake Snell — marking a postseason-record seventh straight game that Anderson had allowed a run.

Physical fatigue wasn’t the only factor.

Anderson said the grind of the postseason routine amid the pandemic protocols and restrictions, specifically playing and living in “the bubble,” also wore him down mentally.

“I think a big impact that maybe weighed on a lot of people, just the environment of being in a bubble. You’re trapped. You don’t, you can’t really — I mean you have freedom, you can kind of do what you want if you’re on the premises,’' Anderson said during a Zoom call from Rays camp in Port Charlotte.

“I think there’s a lot to take away from that on what some of those things, how that can affect kind of the mind, too.’'

Anderson didn’t get into specifics, and obviously being sequestered in luxury hotels for 3½ weeks and having “jobs” as baseball players competing for a championship is a much better situation than most people could ever hope for.

Still, Anderson said it was another challenge, one he understood more once the Series was over.

“I was like, ‘Man, that was tough,’ ’’ he said. “In the moment, I don’t want to really think about that because then it starts to kind of weigh on you. But it definitely started to creep in there toward the end.

“Then when it was all over and I stepped off the plane after we got back and it was like, ‘Hey, I can do what I want, be a little free, just relax.’ ...

“Trying to keep the mind right in that situation was a little bit tougher than — I don’t want to say than what you think — but it was a little tougher than I thought. Just because I like to try to be the person that can adapt to anything and make it through it. But definitely afterward, thinking about it, yeah, it definitely was tough on the mental side, for sure.’'

Manager Kevin Cash said Anderson wasn’t the only one.

He said that as incredibly well as players and staff were taken care of, the combination of the quarantine (restricted to the hotel, which was shared with opposing teams in San Diego and Texas, and stadiums) and the pressures of the competition, including playing consecutive series against the Yankees and Astros, were contributing issues to mental fatigue.

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“I think we all felt it,’' Cash said. “Not disrespecting what was taking place outside of the bubble, and we were staying in beautiful hotels, resorts, being fed well, all those things.

“But I think the thought of playing 12 games in 13 days — it’s one thing to do that in May — but to do it at that stage, where everything, every pitch is so intensified, magnified, naturally, you’re going to get some exhaustion.’'

Anderson wasn’t hit hard in Game 6, but he couldn’t escape the one-out, man-on-first situation he inherited with a 1-0 lead. A double by Mookie Betts, a wild pitch and a ground ball to first led to two Dodgers runs, and soon after a celebration.

Anderson said he hadn’t told Rays coaches his arm was tired, and he gave no thought to not taking the ball. He said he felt the fatigue was just part of the grind, similar in a normal year what he would go through around midseason.

“You might be a little tired and you just kind of work through it a little bit,’' he said. “So it just happened to be during (the) playoffs and the World Series.’'

Cash and coaches Kyle Snyder and Stan Boroski will reinforce with Anderson, 30, the importance of being open and honest about how he is feeling rather than soldiering on.

Plus, Cash said, he was the one who kept using Anderson, who worked 14⅔ innings over 10 postseason games after only 16⅔ in 19 regular-season outings around a two-week injured list stint for forearm inflammation.

“I, we leaned on Nick heavily,’' Cash said, “so it makes sense that he could be tired.’'

Anderson said he worked on his body during the winter to be stronger and more mobile. He said he took his usual time off from throwing, so since the Rays played through October, he is a little behind his norm.

“It feels a little different because I’m pretty picky, and I like to come into spring training feeling ready to go,’' he said.

On the other hand, he feels rested, physically and mentally.