OAKLAND -- Brett Anderson hasn't pitched in nearly three weeks and has made only six starts since June of last season.

But that didn't stop the A's from putting their magical season in his left hand.

Anderson will return from an oblique injury Tuesday night to start Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers, who lead the best-of-five playoff 2-0.

It will mark Anderson's first appearance since he was injured against the Tigers on Sept. 19 and just his seventh since returning in August from Tommy John elbow-ligament replacement surgery.

If Anderson performs as he did in his season debut against Minnesota, the A's stand a good chance to extend their season.

Anderson allowed just one run and four hits in seven innings Aug. 21 as the A's defeated the Twins 4-1.

Overall, he is 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA this season and has pitched at least six innings in every start except the one in which he got hurt.

"It wasn't like I came back and had terrible outings," Anderson said Monday. "I came back and did fairly well until I got hurt. I take comfort in that a little bit. Hopefully, I'll come out and have another outing like I did against Minnesota."

Anderson insists that he is healthy, and the A's aren't planning to put many restrictions on him.

"I don't think we're going to do anything too strict as far as his pitch count goes," manager Bob Melvin said. "We're just going to see every inning how he feels and monitor that.

"Adrenaline kicks in, and sometimes you have more in the tank than you normally would have after a little time off."

Anderson's teammates say they are in good hands so long as the 24-year-old is healthy.

"He knows himself," reliever Grant Balfour said. "I don't know how he feels, but he says he feels good. And if he feels good and he comes back and throws the way he is capable of, he is the guy to have out there. He has great stuff."

Brandon McCarthy echoed those thoughts.

"If he says he is good enough to go out there, I don't see any reason why there wouldn't be full confidence in him," McCarthy said. "He is a tough matchup for anybody, and you put him in a playoff atmosphere, I think he is really going to come through."

The road to this point for Anderson has been long. It took him more than 14 months to work his way back from the elbow injury. Just as he was sailing along, the oblique set him back.

But it didn't end his season.

Reflecting on the journey that began when he injured his elbow against Boston on June 5, 2011, Anderson said, "Just getting back on the big league mound was goal No 1. I got past that point, and I was feeling good. Then I get to Detroit and have an oblique injury, and you have to do the process all over again, just a shorter time frame."

Anderson has made 68 starts since breaking into the big leagues in 2009. His 69th will be his first in the playoffs and mark the first time in this series that the Tigers will not face a rookie Oakland starter. Jarrod Parker started in Game 1, and Tommy Milone had the ball in Game 2.

In four starts against the Tigers, Anderson is 2-2 with a 3.78 ERA. Triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera is 3 for 7 against him with three walks.

"This series is kind of a microcosm of our season," Anderson said. "You've got two rookies and a guy who's been hurt 90 percent of the season. This team has handled adversity better than any team I've seen, you wouldn't expect anything less."

Follow Darren Sabedra on Twitter at twitter.com/DarrenSabedra.

BRETT ANDERSON
In 2012:
ERA: 2.57
Record: 4-2


Anda Chu/staff