Infielder Dean Anna came to the Pirates just this month after the Bucs claimed him from the Yankees. Anna doesn't have a typical background for a player on a 40-man roster -- the Padres took him in the 26th round of the 2008 draft out of Ball State, and he had to fight for playing time even in the low minors. He beat the odds, though, posting high on-base percentages at most of his minor league stops and making it the majors with the Yankees earlier this season. He played both middle infield positions for New York and even appeared in a game as a pitcher. Friday afternoon, I spoke with Anna about the twisting path that brought him back to Indiana as an infielder for Indianapolis. Here's the lightly edited transcript.
So Jaff [Decker] was saying he's known you for quite awhile.
Yeah! Since '08. We got drafted together, and we've been coming up together. We've been on two championship teams, and it's just fun to see him in the same locker room again. It's definitely fun when you have moments with him and you won the championships. Any players that win championships together, you've build a type of bond that's hard to explain.
So you were a late-round draft pick, and you didn't even play full-time for the first couple years in the minors. What were you thinking about your career choice after you'd done that for a couple years?
I was never second-guessing it. I was just happy to have a job there (with the Padres) because I believed in myself, that I could do it. It was bound to happen, bound for me to at least get a chance and show them. I stuck with it. A lot of guys [who] are backups in rookie ball and A-ball, it's tough to stick around and stay focused, because you're not getting as many at-bats. You've got to be practicing. The bonus guys, they've got to play. It's a business. It's not like you're getting stepped on. It's just the business, and you've got to understand what the business is. I think that's what helped me a lot, is I really understood it. It wasn't like, "Oh man, why am I not playing ..."
"The world's so unfair ..."
Yeah, you know? No. You just wait for your opportunity. And whenever it comes, that's when you try to run with it as far as you can.
Did that make it that much sweeter to get to the big leagues?
Yeah, it was awesome. Being in Double-A, making the All-Star team there, and then doing really well last year in Triple-A and making the All-Star team there, I thought I would have a chance with the Padres. It didn't happen, but there's not a better team to break in with than the New York Yankees, and just meeting a lot of those guys, it was pretty cool. It was something I won't forget. Hopefully I can some memories here, get called up to Pittsburgh and have some fun up there.
What was your reaction when you were traded to the Yankees?
It was a relief. I didn't get called up [with the Padres], and then I was like, "Alright, let's see what happens," I wasn't on [a] roster. You're just like, "What else can I do?" When I heard that news, I felt really good. I felt like, "Okay, I'm going to get a chance no matter what now." The Yankees put me on their roster. It felt good going into spring training to fight for a job. Some things happened, and I made the team out of spring training. It was a sweet feeling.
What do you think your best position is?
Wherever. Second base is the easiest. I like playing shortstop a lot. Shortstop's fun. Third base is whatever to me -- it isn't hard, you just react. Shortstop's definitely the hardest, but I've been playing shortstop a lot. I don't like just playing all second base, because you want to stay loose and you want to feel comfortable out there. So I'll probably take a few ground balls here and though at short just to stay sharp.
Why is second base the easiest one?
You've got time. You can miss a ball, grab it, throw 'em out, you know? Shortstop there's a lot less error. Third base too. Second base, a lot of the balls, you just ...
Knock it down.
Yeah, knock it down. You can't mess up as much at short, because he'll probably be safe.
How'd you end up pitching for the Yankees this year?
We were down, I don't even know, like 10, 12 runs? And it was like the eighth inning. Joe [Girardi] just asked me, "You ever pitch?" And I was like, "Well, when I was in travel ball." And he just said, "Don't throw the ball hard." A lot of people remember me just trying to lob it in there. I almost snuck out of it. I had a funny feeling it was going to work. I was like, "You know what, I'm just going to lob, lob, lob." I wasn't going to put nothing on it. It got hit a few times, and then I got two quick outs, and then my last pitch, I wanted to throw it really hard. I forget who it was, I think it was [Ryan] Hanigan. I had him 0-2 and there's guys on second and third, and he's seen all the slow stuff. I really wanted to rip one. I think I would have caught him off-guard. But same pitch, and he had a hit and two runs scored.
So you were just throwing all "fastballs" (making air quotes)?
Yeah, changeup-fastballs, whatever you'd call them. Not a lot of people can say they've pitched on a mound. It was fun.