Anderson’s Role an Unknown After Rough Season and Surgery

Cleveland pitcher Cody Anderson burst on to the Major League Baseball scene in 2015 with an unexpected 7-3 record while making 15 starts, throwing one complete game, and putting up an impressive 3.05 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.

That success put him on the team’s radar for their starting rotation for 2016. Then things fell apart.

Anderson was the team’s fourth starter to begin the season, putting veteran Josh Tomlin in the fifth spot and bumping Trevor Bauer to the bullpen. He did not necessarily blow people away with his preseason numbers after allowing the second-most runs among all Cleveland pitchers in Arizona, but he had a 1.05 WHIP and .226 batting average against in 24 2/3 innings of spring training competition. He came to Arizona early, hitting the Goodyear camp at the beginning of December, and implemented a new nutrition and conditioning program. It resulted in a more athletic looking Anderson, one who also had an uptick in velocity on his pitches.

Some of the better spring numbers did not carry over to the regular season, when he quickly struggled to show the same results as he had in his debut year. After a quality six innings in a no-decision against Chicago to open the year, he allowed five runs in each of his next three starts. Walks were contained to just two over the 14 innings, but he allowed 28 hits and five damaging long balls as opposing hitters batted .424 off of him. He found himself back at Triple-A Columbus, even with the club down a starter with Carlos Carrasco landing on the 15-day disabled list two days prior to his demotion. Anderson made one start with the Clippers before returning to Cleveland.

He allowed four more runs in a five-inning defeat against Kansas City in his return outing before working three and one-third innings in relief on May 11 against Houston, giving up the game-winning two-run homer to Marwin Gonzalez. After giving up a season-high six runs in a 15-6 Cleveland win over Cincinnati on May 16, Anderson was optioned back to Columbus with a 0-3 record, a 7.99 ERA, and a 1.78 WHIP. Ten of the 51 hits he allowed over his first seven appearances left the yard.

He was back up as the 26th man on the roster for a doubleheader in Chicago on May 23 and made his best start of the season, going seven innings while allowing just one run on five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts for his first win. It also marked the first time on the year that he prevented the opposition from hitting at least one homer, but it was back to Columbus for the struggling righty.

He looked better in his second stint with the Clippers for the year, giving up one unearned run over ten innings in a pair of wins for Columbus before a spot start and loss for the Indians against Seattle on June 7. He returned to Triple-A again, but after a short outing against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on June 12 he landed on the 7-day disabled list with right elbow tightness.

He was activated on July 5 and after a pair of short starts for the Clippers, Anderson returned to the Indians as a bullpen option for the club. After two scoreless outings, he allowed two runs on three hits in two and one-third innings in each of his next two games and was back in Columbus for the Clippers playoff push, this time strictly in a relief role.

As a Triple-A reliever, he put together his most consistent play of the season in seven August outings, giving up one run on five hits with a walk and ten strikeouts in seven and one-third innings. He even earned his first career save while striking out all three Indianapolis hitters he faced as the Clippers clinched the International League West Division crown on August 24.

When rosters expanded in September, Anderson returned to Cleveland and was used sparingly down the stretch, making six appearances (four of which were two innings in length). The first four continued his season scoreless streak to ten straight appearances, but he allowed two runs in a spot start on September 24 against Chicago and three runs in an inning on September 29 in Detroit to close out his season. He did not pitch during the playoffs, despite being on the roster.

Anderson worked a total of 60 2/3 innings on the year, posting a 2-5 record with the Indians with a 6.68 ERA and 1.62 WHIP.

Following the completion of the season, Anderson underwent an arthroscopic debridement of his right elbow in Dallas, Texas. The procedure was expected to sideline him from throwing for eight weeks into early January, at which point he would be able to start a throwing program. He is expected to pitch during the spring camp and be ready for the coming season.

After a tough season on the mound that included frequent travel back and forth from Cleveland to Columbus, Anderson’s role with the Indians is uncertain for the future.

Will the team look at the briefly successful pitcher as a depth option for the starting rotation and keep him stashed and ready at Triple-A in the event of an emergency? This season proved that there is never enough starting pitching, after Anderson’s ineffectiveness, a pair of injuries to Carrasco, a late season loss of Danny Salazar, and the postseason finger injury of Bauer tapped into a dwindling pool of Major League capable rotation pieces.

Will the team eye him as a candidate for their bullpen, providing the relief corps with a possible multiple inning option in the middle and late innings of games? There could be a spot or two up for grabs, after the more experienced options in Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw, Dan Otero, Jeff Manship, and Zach McAllister.

Before the Indians can determine the best course of action, Anderson has to heal up and get back on track on the mound, giving Cleveland some consistent efforts to evaluate.

Photo: Otto Gruele Jr./Getty Images

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