Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 56 – Cody Anderson

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Countdown to Opening Day – 56 days

A missed opportunity may come back to haunt current wearer of number 56 in Cleveland, right-handed pitcher Cody Anderson.

Anderson left spring training last season with a spot in the Indians rotation. The team’s number four starter was coming off of a breakout performance in 2015, when he went 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 15 starts, including one complete game and several flirtations with history. But the big righty, who came to Goodyear with a new look and believed to be in better physical conditioning, could not turn that good start to his big league career into a long-term grasp on a spot in the packed Indians starting rotation.

Now, the team has to figure out how best to utilize Anderson going forward. Will the Indians look to Anderson to compete for one of the openings on the relief staff after a better showing out of the bullpen in a limited sample size in 2016, or will they keep him stretched out and in the rotation at Triple-A Columbus to be best prepared for any injuries that afflict the Major League club?

Otto Greule Jr./ Getty Images
Otto Greule Jr./ Getty Images

Anderson was drafted by the Indians in the 14th round of the 2011 draft out of Feather River College in his native Quincy, California. He spent that season at short-season Mahoning Valley and the next year at Class-A Lake County before spending time at two levels for the first time in 2013 when he made 23 starts (9-4, 2.34 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) for High-A Carolina and three starts for Double-A Akron (0-0, 5.68 ERA, 1.97 WHIP). He returned to the RubberDucks rotation for 2014 and made 25 starts in a difficult year, going 4-11 with a 5.44 ERA and 1.48 WHIP, leading him to return to the club for a third year to start 2015.

That season, he seemed to figure out whatever had ailed him the previous year as he was 3-2 with a 1.73 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in ten starts at Akron and got the promotion to Triple-A Columbus. His stay there was short, as he made three quick starts before being promoted to Cleveland.

He started the 2016 season back with Cleveland and earned a quality start against the Chicago White Sox, but allowed five runs over his next three starts to wrap up April with concerns mounting about his abilities as a total of six balls left the yard in his 20 innings of work. He was optioned to Columbus at the end of the month, but with another hole in the starting rotation with the injury to Carlos Carrasco, he returned on May 7. He would head back to Columbus again ten days later, only to return on May 23 for a spot start in a doubleheader. Despite better results, he was optioned again to Triple-A, where he remained until yet another one-day recall in early June.

In the middle of June and back in the minors again, the Clippers placed him on the seven-day disabled list with right elbow tightness. He remained shelved until July 5, but he would get three more trips to the Indians roster before the regular season was completed.

His role in the second half of the season for the Indians was a different one as he worked out of the bullpen in primarily a multi-inning role. He was not necessarily dominant in the role, but his time in relief provided a better 4.11 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over those nine outings with an 8.80 strikeout per nine rate. The ball also stopped jumping out of the yard, as he allowed just two homers over his final ten appearances after giving up homers in eight of his first nine games of the year.

The length and versatility that Anderson provided the Indians earned him spots on the American League Division Series and American League Championship Series rosters, but he was replaced on the World Series roster. Despite being included for two of the team’s three postseason series, he did not appear on the mound during game action.

What remains in question is how much that early season elbow injury altered the course of his year. The same elbow was looked at after the season and on November 9, he underwent an arthroscopic debridement of his pitching arm to address an impingement in the back of the elbow joint. The procedure was expected to sideline him for a period of eight weeks, which would have put him in position to begin preparations for the 2017 season in January.

The 26-year-old is not a big strikeout guy, but showed more zip on his pitches early last season after a dedicated offseason. The extra velocity did not play out to racking up more strikeouts as he reached five strikeouts in a ball game just three times. If working as a starter, he will have to find a way of keeping the ball in the yard better, or at least minimizing the base traffic proceeding a blast.

Being stretched out over the course of his professional career in a starting role would give him some use for manager Terry Francona as a multi-inning relief option, long man, or spot starter in the future, but the limited results so far make it tough to determine how best Anderson can be effective on the mound. This spring should give some insight into how the Indians view Anderson’s future with the team, a ball club with a very crowded pitching staff with several key members locked up and potentially in his way for many years to come.

Photo: AP Photo/Steve Nesius

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