The Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season with new expectations despite many questions. The Indians’ 25-man roster will look different than the group that won 92 games and lost the American League Wild Card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. While the roster may change and the expectations grow, Cleveland will need answer many questions this spring before opening the season in Oakland on March 31. Today, we look at one of the Indians’ young players who likely won’t make the roster but could impact the Tribe’s season before it ends.
In just a week, Cleveland baseball fans have exploded with excitement, going from a distinct lack of baseball to the reporting of pitchers and catchers this past Tuesday. The promise of the 2014 season is no longer a figment of our imaginations – it is real, it is here, and it is now. We are ready.
Cody Anderson is ready, too. However, it wasn’t always that way for the 23-year-old right-handed pitcher from Quincy, California. Anderson signed with the Tribe in 14th round of the 2011 First Year Player Draft out of Feather River Community College in California, having been drafted twice but declining to sign in 2010 after being drafted in the 17th round by the Tampa Bay Rays.
“My first year, I wasn’t ready for pro ball,” Anderson said at the Lake County Captains’ Hot Stove Dinner on January 29. “We talked a lot before I signed [with Cleveland] and I ended up deciding it’s a really good fit and I made the right decision. It’s working out so far.”
Anderson turned down a baseball scholarship at Texas Christian University to sign with the Indians.
Prior to his career with the Indians, Anderson did not have much experience as a starting pitcher, instead having thrown as a reliever through most of his tenure at Feather River. In 2013, Anderson started 23 games for the Carolina Mudcats and three games for the Akron Aeros. He went 9-4 in Carolina and 0-0 in Akron, with a .236 and .320 ERA, respectively, and an overall organizational-best .265 ERA.
Anderson said he has grown comfortable in his position as a starter, citing the more routine nature of the role as an advantage.
“There’s more of a routine and I enjoy having a routine,” Anderson said. “And in terms of learning how to pitch, it’s taught me a lot about pitching. Hopefully, I can keep learning.”
Celebrating the impact starting has had on his pitching career is no stretch for Anderson. Last season, he was acknowledged as the top pitching prospect in the Indians’ minor league system and was awarded the coveted Bob Feller Award as the top minor league pitcher.
Anderson said it is an honor to have received such as award, saying how special it is to have the great Bob Feller’s name next to his own. Despite the enormous accolade, Anderson still appears grounded and does not seem to have let the praise go to his head. In fact, Anderson said that one of the most important things that his minor league career has taught him has been about himself as a person, saying he has grown a lot because “baseball humbles you all the time.”
Further, Anderson describes the honor of receiving the Carolina league Matt Minker 2013 Community Service Award as meaning more to him than his baseball recognitions because it speaks to who he is as a person.
Despite his ability to separate his career from his person, Anderson is still very much a top pitcher with his head in the game, looking toward the future to determine what the next steps are to continue his success on the mound in the coming season. With pitching coach Mickey Callaway having said that Anderson could possibly have a Cody Allen-esque rise through the system, Anderson is not sitting back and waiting for the success to happen; he is very much an active participant in his quest for a chance at the Major League stage.
Having started only a few times for Double-A Akron in 2013, Anderson is looking to continue his upward trajectory into 2014.
“To find success, I just have to stay true to myself and keep doing the things I know I can do to have success,” Anderson said. “Keep the same routine, keep carrying myself the same way I did before and not change anything.”
His formula certainly has been working. Anderson, who throws a fastball, cutter, curveball, and change up, pitched 136 total innings last season, allowing 121 hits and 40 earned runs. He gave up eight home runs and walked a total of 40 batters. He also threw 122 strikeouts. He was granted numerous Carolina League recognitions throughout the season, including Carolina League Pitcher of the Week, was named a Post- and Mid-Season All-Star, and was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year.
His recognition has continued throughout the 2013 off-season, as he was invited to attend the Indians’ Winter Development Program in late January.
“It’s been great,” Anderson said of the week-long immersion into the Major League team, the facilities at Progressive Field, and the city of Cleveland itself. “They brought in a lot of great speakers, Coach Kyle, Mickey, Francona, all the Front Office people from the Indians organization. We’ve been learning a lot and we can learn a lot from their experiences.”
Building himself as a person and a pitcher are the motivations driving Anderson throughout the off-season, combining talent on the mound with maturity and understanding off the field in a way that positions Anderson as a strong contender for a chance to throw at the Major League level in the near future.
“I’m really hoping to just develop my skills and hopefully the Indians call me up at some point, but that’s not my call,” Anderson said of his 2014 aspirations. ‘When I get there, hopefully I can help them win. That’s the ultimate goal for the organization, to win at every level, and that’s my main goal – whatever team I’m on, to give them a chance to win.”
It’s this understanding, this ability to position himself as an asset to the Indians’ organization at any capacity, that seems to set Anderson apart a bit. He is not in the game to load up on rings and awards; he is in it to make the organization – and himself – better.
“I’m just a student to the game,” Anderson said, deflecting the praise that comes with being one of the top performers in the system. “It’s been a good experience.”
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer