The once-stoic man seems always to be smiling these days, making small talk with reporters and trading jokes with teammates in the Dodgers' clubhouse.
"I'm having fun," Garret Anderson said.
Even when the subject of conversation is his lack of production, as was the case on a recent day.
"At least the hits I've been getting are helping the team," he said.
Exploding with laughter, Anderson leaned back in his chair.
He has only 14 hits in 91 at-bats this season but has driven in nine runs. So if he got a hit, odds are that someone scored.
Life has changed dramatically over the last two years for Anderson, who spent the first 18-plus years of his career in the Angels organization.
He will be reminded of that again when the first-place Dodgers host the Angels — who were only one game back of the division-leading Texas Rangers going into Thursday— in a three-game series that starts Friday.
The new uniform is only part of the change for Anderson, who played for the Atlanta Braves last season. A former three-time All-Star with the Angels, he is less than three weeks away from his 38th birthday but in the process of learning a new craft. The man who Angels reliever Scot Shields said "could wake up hitting" will go into the series opener with a .154 average, still searching for ways to make himself an effective pinch-hitter.
"You're trying to find your way," Anderson said. "Unfortunately, in this job, there's no room for error. You've got to get it done. Up until now, I've done some things, but I don't think I've done enough."
The lack of production hasn't been for a lack of effort.
Anderson said he takes extra batting practice and spends more time in the weight room. He often runs before games.
"My issues at the plate with production have to do more with timing," he said. "The swing feels fine. But if you don't swing the bat through the zone every day, you can get rusty."
Becoming completely comfortable with the idea of being a bench player also took time. Even in his season with the Braves, Anderson remained an everyday player.
"I've always embraced the role because this is what I signed up to do," he said. "But after not being able to go out there like I used to, my mind is finally saying, 'OK, this is where we're at, this is what we're doing.' I don't feel that urge to run out on the field in the first inning like I used to. I don't beat myself up over that anymore."
Anderson said he is appreciative of the efforts made to get him extra at-bats by Manager Joe Torre, who has started him 14 times.
Asked what he saw that made him believe Anderson could turn his season around, Torre replied, "You want him to. That's the easiest way to do it, the least complicated. I'm not going to give you chapter and verse on why I think it's going to happen. I think he's important for us."
General Manager Ned Colletti said he will remain patient with Anderson.
"As somebody who has had the career he's had, you have to give him every opportunity," Colletti said. "We don't have many players who have his major league experience. There's value to that."
If he wasn't Garret Anderson, Colletti acknowledged, he might have been let go by now.
Being at this stage in life has afforded Anderson other luxuries.
While saying he always opened up to reporters who took the time to get to know him, he acknowledges he is less guarded than he used to be around the media. And as a pinch-hitter, his in-game demeanor has also changed, if only for a few innings.
"I do have fun," he said. "Not playing every day, I can probably clown around a little more. But when it gets to the fourth or fifth inning, that's over with. I'm concentrating."
And Anderson said he understands why 35-year-old pitcher Hiroki Kuroda has often said he wants to take everything in this season because it could be his last in baseball.
"As you get older, you appreciate things more," Anderson said. "When you're younger, I think you're more trying to prove yourself, prove your worth, going out there, making your living. So many more things on your plate. When you get older, you've done that already and it's like, 'OK, I want to enjoy this.' I've enjoyed it the whole way, but I kind of know what he's talking about."
So is this the end of the road for Anderson?
"I don't contemplate what's going to happen next year because I have no clue," he said. "I feel comfortable with that. I really do."
Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.
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