With a fastball that approached triple-digits on the radar gun, Anderson was named the top college pitching prospect by Baseball America following an outstanding run as a short reliever at Rice University. Taken by Detroit with the #1 overall pick of the June 1997 draft, he was instantly projected as the Tigers’ closer of the future.
In his first pro season, Anderson made the leap all the way from Class A to the major leagues, earning a promotion to Detroit in late June 1998. Sporting a devil-may-care attitude and a pierced tongue, he put together a promising rookie campaign that included a 5-1 record and a 3.27 ERA in 42 relief appearances. Twice his fastball was clocked at 103 MPH.
Anderson took a step backward his sophomore season, however, and was sent down to Triple-A after struggling with control in May. He returned to the Tigers in August and finished the year with a 5.68 ERA in 37 outings, walking 32 and allowing eight home runs in 38 innings pitched. In his third season Anderson, who turned 24 in August 2000, produced more palatable results but still had yet to fully cash in on his estimable talent. While bullpen mate Todd Jones solidified his hold on the club’s closer job with an All-Star season, Anderson worked in a career-high 69 games, posting a 3-2 record with one save and 4.72 ERA, allowing 61 hits while fanning 71 in 74 1/3 innings.
Anderson ran into trouble with the law in October 1998, when he signed for an overnight package that contained marijuana. He admitted using the drug, but told police the delivery was intended for teammate (and housemate) Robert Fick.