Life is funny.
When you believe that you’ve started progressing on the right path in your life, all of a sudden something happens and changes everything. That’s kind of the story behind Akron RubberDucks pitcher Cody Anderson, who used to be a reliever when he was in college. This year though, he was the opening day starter for the RubberDucks.
When Anderson was drafted by the Indians in the 14th round of the 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft, he had been a reliever at Feather River College in Quincy, California. After he was drafted, the Indians converted him to a starter based on his physical build. Just by looking at Anderson, you can tell that he was starter material. He’s listed at 6’4” and 220 pounds. He definitely looks like he has the potential to be a solid, starting pitcher.
In his first season in 2011, he only started in one of the three games he pitched. In 2012 though, he started 23 games and had an ERA of 3.20 and went 4-7 with 72 strike outs, 29 walks, and averaged 6.6 K/9 along with 2.7 BB/9. Anderson sports a fastball, curveball, cutter and change up. In 2013, he was promoted to High-A Carolina where he continued his success as he posted an ERA of 2.34 in 23 starts and had a record of 9-4. He also increased his K/9 to an impressive 8.2 and lowered his BB/9 to 2.3.
During the 2013 season, Anderson was promoted to Double-A Akron where he made three starts and posted an ERA of 5.68. He impressed enough people during his time there that he earned his chance to return to Akron for the 2014 season and earned the top minor league pitcher in the Indians system last season.
Now, 23-year old Anderson is again having to deal with adjustments in his career. Now he is adjusting not only to the expectations that are set in front of him by the Indians, but also overcoming his early season struggles.
In the first six starts of the season, Anderson had an ERA of 6.57 while only having 13 punch outs and 11 walks. This obviously was not exactly how Anderson expected to start his season. This was something that had to be changed. Currently, Anderson is the fourth top prospect in the Indians system, just below Francisco Lindor, Clint Frazier, and the not-so-prospect anymore Trevor Bauer.
The last four starts for Anderson have been encouraging, and it seems that he may have begun to turn it around. In his last four starts, he’s posted an ERA of 2.72 with 17 strike outs compared to his eight walks.
“Things are starting to feel better. Starting to get more mechanically sound,” Anderson said. “Hopefully get things rolling, piece together maybe two or three more [quality starts].”
The start that sticks out from his past four games was in his start against the Reading Fighting Phils on May 24. In that game, Anderson had a line of 6.1 IP 5 H 1 R/ER 0 BB 4 K. This start was impressive for many reasons, but what sticks out most of all is the fact that he did not give up a single walk. Something that has troubled Anderson all season long.
“I thought so, just throwing the ball really well,” manager Dave Wallace explained regarding Andersons start. “After that 20-pitch first inning we really challenged him and Tony (Wolters) to challenge their guys earlier in the count. Get some earlier outs, and they did it. That’s why he was able to go as long as they did. Very pleased with his outing.”
Anderson was awarded with the honor of being Minor League Player of the Week following this outing.
“It felt good, after giving up ten runs in one game awhile back, it felt good to get rewarded a little bit when you’re battling,” Anderson explained.
As the season continues to roll along, Anderson continues to improve on the mound. The only issue that has plagued him all season long has been his control. In his previous start against the Harrisburg Senators, Anderson allowed four walks in six innings.
“I think sometimes he tries to be a little too perfect instead of really challenging guys,” Wallace explained. “A couple balls did get hit. It can’t scare you out of the zone. There were too many times that he got ahead, he got to two strikes.”
Anderson is aware of the issue, and knows what it takes to clean up his game. After the third inning in his start against Harrisburg, Anderson was able to clean up his act and go 1-2-3 in the next three innings.
“[Jeff Harris] walked up to me and was like, ‘You’ve gotta pitch, you can’t throw it by everybody.’ Which is kind of an immature thing to do is just throw it as hard as you can,” Anderson said. “Anyhow, every once and awhile it happens. After that third inning, I went back in the dugout and was like ‘Alright, it’s time to start pitching and just try to start keeping everything down in the zone.’ It worked out pretty well for the last three.”
After having two really great back-to-back starts, this previous start was a little bit of a setback since he did walk four batters and give up six runs. This isn’t something that will bring Anderson down though.
“That’s the thing about being a starter you’ve gotta stay back and just battle through,” Anderson said. “You can’t get down on yourself if you give up four in the first two innings. If you get through six and keep it close for the team, then that’s all you can really do.”
From being a reliever in a college bullpen, to converting to a professional starter, to now being one of the most promising starters in the Indians minor league system, Anderson’s path sure has changed since his first year of playing college baseball. If Anderson continues to improve on his command, and challenge batters early in the count, we’ll all understand why the Indians wanted him to become a starter. The big man certainly has the potential to be something special for the Indians in the future.
“I’m starting to feel a lot better. The weather is warming up. I’ve got a better routine going. I feel like it’s time to start rolling and battle.”
The RubberDucks currently are sitting pretty on top of the Eastern League Western with a record of 34-21. They hold the second best record in the Eastern League, just below the Portland Sea Dogs who are 38-18.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer