ST. LOUIS -- When Bryan Anderson was optioned to Triple-A early in Spring Training, it appeared to be a clear sign that his Major League debut was still a long time away in the future. Instead, being sent down might have been the best thing to happen to Anderson.
The left-handed-hitting catcher made significant defensive strides after he was sent down. That, combined with his already advanced offense, earned him his first Major League callup on Wednesday. Anderson was recalled from Triple-A Memphis when the Cardinals placed Jason LaRue on the 15-day disabled list. LaRue has a strained right hamstring.
LaRue, 36, suffered the injury in Sunday night's game in Milwaukee. He said on Monday that he was improving, but he did not come along enough to avoid a DL stint. It's been a difficult year already for LaRue, who also suffered a bone bruise on his left hand during Spring Training. He is expected to miss only the minimum 15 days.
"Yesterday he actually felt decent," manager Tony La Russa said. "But when they checked him today, they said, 'Look, you're feeling better, but you won't be ready to do baseball stuff for five or six days' -- can't do that. [It's a] long season. Get him well."
The move cleared the way for Anderson, 23, who has spent most of the past two seasons at Triple-A Memphis. The former fourth-round Draft pick is known best for his bat, having hit .299 with a .362 on-base percentage in his Minor League career. But he's worked extensively with former Cardinal Mike Matheny, who now works in player development for the organization.
Matheny was impressed by how Anderson played after he was sent down, as well as how he handled himself.
"When you get that move made, you can respond in a couple ways," Matheny said. "He went down there right away with the best attitude and started getting ready to work again. He knew he had some little things he wanted to tweak on, and he still does."
Anderson has always drawn positive reviews for his attitude and willingness to work. It's been a matter of translating that work into results on the defensive end. The club felt he needed to refine both his receiving and his throwing. And while he's not yet the defensive catcher that his Memphis platoon-mate Matt Pagnozzi is, he's improved enough to get the call to the Majors.
"It was the No. 1 thing for the last couple years, was improving my defense and trying to get that going so I could get called up," Anderson said. "I'm just here to help out as much as I can. Get to know everybody and get to know what everybody's got."
In four games at Memphis this season, Anderson was 6-for-18. He becomes the only left-handed hitter on the Cardinals' bench, save for switch-hitter Felipe Lopez. La Russa said that he does not envision Anderson seeing any pinch-hit opportunities, though he does expect that Anderson could get a start at some point.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.