Rock bottom is defined as “the lowest possible level in life.” I’m pretty sure that this definition can be replaced by “Cody Anderson‘s 2014 season,” as that’s exactly how it seemed at the time. The big right hander has taken this season in stride though as he’s used it as a stepping stone to move forward, and he’s doing so gloriously.
Anderson, 24, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the17th round of the MLB June Amateur Draft in 2011. Originally drafted as an outfielder, Anderson has converted into one of the Indians most promising pitchers in their system, if not the most promising. This didn’t seem the case though in 2014, where Anderson had his worst season of his young career thus far. In 25 games he had a record of 4-11 with an ERA of 5.44. He only pitched in 125.2 innings, a K/9 of 5.8, BB/9 of 3.2, was serving up about 10 hits per nine innings. Let’s just say that everything that could have gone bad for Anderson did go bad.
In 2013 when he was called up to Double-A Akron, in his short time there he was winless in his three starts and had an ERA of 5.68. Now everyone thought that this may have just been because he hadn’t been comfortable in Double-A yet, as he had arguably been the best pitcher in the High-A Carolina league with the Carolina Mudcats earlier that season. He was so good there that he was awarded the Bob Feller Award for being the best pitcher in the Indians entire minor league system. It may still be true that he was uncomfortable when he was first called up in 2013, but that bled over into 2014 and became even worse as the season went on.
But, 2015 is a fresh year with new opportunities though, and Anderson is taking this new season by the reigns. In four starts so far this season, Anderson is 2-1 with an ERA 1.12 in 24 innings of work. That’s averaging about six innings per start. He’s striking out about 6.8 batters per nine innings, and only walking about 1.5 per nine. His WHIP is also extremely low, sitting at a solid 1.000.
“Everything’s the same,” Anderson said about himself coming into the season. “The balls in a little better spot and coming out of my hand a little better than it was last year. Not necessarily velocity, just being able to locate it a little better. [There’s a] little more conviction on it. My body’s in a better spot. I can get a little deeper into games and compete a little better.”
What’s really standing out about Anderson’s outings thus far is the fact that he’s only walked one batter in each of his four outings. In 2013 his walk rate was about 6.4 BB/9, which did drop to 3.2 in 2014. Command has been an issue so far in his career, but he seems to really have a handle of his pitches so far this season. A lot of that can be due to how Anderson prepared himself for the 2015 season compared to previous years.
“I came into last year bulked up. I got stronger, but that probably wasn’t what I was supposed to do. It was kind of a learning experience,” Anderson said. “Trying to get my body to where it’s supposed to be. Where I feel comfortable pitching it. I toned down a little bit this year, and got my body back flexible and put myself into a better position on the mound.”
Anderson looks a lot trimmer, compared to last season. He seems to be moving his body better with more athleticism. It really goes to show how intelligent Anderson is to pinpoint what his issue was, and it shows how dedicated he is to this game to actually go out and do whatever he can to repair the issue that plagued him all season long. Keeping his body in check is key for him to be successful.
“I can trust that I can get my fastball away, or my fastball in. That’s the biggest thing is being able to trust where I can get the ball where I want to put it,” Anderson said.
Manager David Wallace is leaning on Anderson this year to be a key leader for the rotation going forward. Both Anderson and right hander Will Roberts are the returning members of the RubberDucks rotation, and they’ll have a lot of weight to carry to help guide the newer members throughout the season.
“From what I’ve watched so far in the short time that we’ve been here, and in spring training, they’ve taken on a leadership role,” Wallace said.
Anderson believes that he not only is able to benefit the other members of the rotation by his leadership, but also learn from his teammates in the same aspect.
“We all watch each other’s routines and take a little bit, or take away from what everybody does. Everybody feeds off everybody. I learn stuff from them just like they learn stuff from me,” Anderson said.
The one part of Anderson’s game that needs to improve is how deep into games he can go. He’s a big guy standing at 6’ 4” and 235 pounds. Yet, he’s only averaging about 6 innings per start, which can be an issue when you hope your starter can go 7 or 8 innings. If he can start working his way deeper into games, Anderson could see himself with the big league club as soon as September of this year, depending on how the rotation shakes out. With a questionable last starter spot right now in Cleveland, and not much depth as far as a long term replacement in Columbus, Anderson is the most logical choice for that spot if he can continue to pitch as well as he is in Akron right now.
The future for Anderson is in his hands. He has the ability to go far, as the starting pitching depth for the Indians is incredibly slim. He’s already taken strides to returning to the pitcher he has always been projected to be.
He’s hit rock bottom, and now he’s working his way back up.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer