Anderson finding comfort outside of his comfort zone
It’s been said that life begins outside one’s comfort zone, but Cody Anderson knows better than to get too comfortable while toeing the rubber.
Anderson, 24, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 14th round of 2011. The right-hander spent the majority of the 2013 season with the high-A Carolina Mudcats before receiving a promotion to double-A Akron in August.
A 9-4 record, 2.34 ERA and 3.61 strikeout-to-walk ratio earned Anderson a Carolina League All-Star nomination and a Carolina League Pitcher of the Year title. Though he was dominant in the Carolina League, he found pitching there anything but easy. Many hitters claim the league is one of the toughest due to it having just eight teams, making it tough to outsmart the competition. Even from the pitcher’s mound, Anderson agreed.
“We face the same guys so many times and every team’s going to have somebody that’s going to hit you,” he explained. “You’ve got to start figuring out a way to get around them and as soon as you figure that out, somebody else starts hitting. It’s just kind of a cat-and-mouse-game. It’s kind of fun.”
It wasn’t difficult for the 2013 Mudcats to have fun, considering many of the teammates played together since their rookie season. Anderson played with the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers in 2011 and low-A Lake County Captains in 2012, rising through the system like many of his teammates.
“We’ve been a core group and have kind of stuck together year after year,” he said. “It was fun to go there and keep working with the same guys.”
Anderson attributed some of his success to his coaching staff, which has also risen through the ranks with him. Since 2011, Anderson has been a part of David Wallace and Jeff Harris’s pitching staff, which Anderson feels has been beneficial.
“I’ve had them at every level and just them trusting me and giving me the ball and saying, ‘Hey go for it,’ was a big turning point that helped me a lot last season,” he said.
Wallace and Harris will move up to Akron to take over the RubberDucks’ coaching staff, though Anderson already beat them to the confines of Canal Park. In August 2013, Anderson was promoted to Akron to finish the season.
Akron proved to be more challenging for Anderson, who made three starts for the Aeros, posting a 5.68 ERA and no record.
“I think the biggest difference was a lot of the guys are a lot smarter,” Anderson said. “They’ve been around the game a lot longer. They didn’t swing at bad pitches and the strike zone was a lot better.”
Anderson had expected tougher competition, but he hadn’t expected to face it in 2013. He said he didn’t think he’d see Akron last season due to the innings limit the organization had for him. His projected limit was between 130-135, though he ended up tossing 136 between Carolina and Akron before he was shut down for the year.
Anderson was a reliever at Feather River College in Quincy, Calif. before the Indians organization converted him to a starter. Though he’s settled in to his starting role, he’s not sure he’ll ever find it completely cozy.
“I don’t think I’ll ever adjust all the way,” Anderson said. “I can’t get too comfortable with being a starter.”
Anderson may not be fully accustomed to a starting role, but he said he does prefer the predictable routine it offers.
“I actually enjoy it a lot more because there’s a set routine to pitch every five days and I know exactly where I’m going to pitch,” he said.
Having a set routine has allowed Anderson to focus on his mental game, something he said still needs more work. One thing he’s learned during three years of professional baseball is the importance of pacing.
“Don’t let the game speed up on you,” he said. “That’s one thing I’ve learned. When things start going bad, slow the game down, take a deep breath, and work through it instead of trying to reach back and throw harder.”
Anderson has strayed from his heater anyway. He spent last season focusing on all four of his pitches, especially his change-up. Anderson learned to step outside his comfort zone and trust his secondary pitches rather than ride his fastball.
“If I fell behind in the count, I worked on throwing my slider or change-up to get back into the count and not just reach back and use a fastball to try to get out of a bad situation,” he explained.
As Anderson continues to develop a sense of comfort in his starting role, in double-A ball, and with his pitch arsenal, he keeps his final goal in mind: Cleveland.
He’ll make the trip to Cleveland for the Indians’ Winter Development Program at the end of the month and is looking forward to spending time in the area. He experienced Cleveland and Progressive Field back when he was with the Lake County Captains and said he’s hoping to make a stop on E. 4th Street for some food.
Until he departs for Cleveland next weekend, Anderson is enjoying time at home and outdoors. He took a camping trip to Colorado in November and has spent the offseason building hiking trails for a non-profit group in the Sierra Nevadas.
He may find solace in the great outdoors, but he’s also finding a balance of comfort and edge on the diamond.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.