Anderson is making big strides
The first half of the 2012 season went about as good as Low-A Lake County right-handed pitcher Cody Anderson could have ever dreamed it could go. While the Captains did not enjoy a lot of success in the win column, he certainly grew by leaps and bounds.
Anderson, 21, started the season as a piggyback starter where he shared starts with right-hander Kyle Blair, but he impressed so much in the early going the Indians made him a full-fledged starter and have since been very happy with his performance and development. The Indians were not the only ones to recognize his good play as he was rewarded for his strong first half with an election to the Midwest League All Star team after he went 4-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 13 appearances (66.1 IP, 68 H, 0 HR, 19 BB, 47 K).
Now that Anderson is locked into the starting rotation he is working on getting used to the routine that goes along with getting ready to pitch every five days. Lake County pitching coach Jeff Harris has been instrumental in the development of Anderson, and has really helped him not only with improving his stuff and mechanics, but with the mental part of pitching as well.
“Harry has been helping me a ton on the mental side,” Anderson said. “A lot of it is mental with just slowing the game down. It is about becoming a pitcher more than just a thrower and developing more pitches that you can throw for strikes.”
Anderson features a good fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and has touched 96 MPH this season. His ability to command his fastball is one of his best attributes. A lot of players at the Low-A level struggle with their fastball command, but he does a pretty good job of it almost to a fault where he needs to work it off the plate a little more so hitters do not just sit on it.
“I can always throw my fastball for a strike,” Anderson said. “I can always rely on that and I can dig down and get more velocity or whatever I need to do to get out of an inning. Sometimes I actually throw too may strikes with it, so I have to learn to pitch off the plate as well as on the plate. Not necessarily pitch around guys as I believe that in three pitches a guy should be out or on the base, but just be able to execute a couple of inches off the plate.”
In addition to learning to pitch more off the plate with his fastball, Anderson is also learning to read swings to see when a hitter is being aggressive and will expand the zone to get himself out. He is also working on pitching inside on batters, which is something he had never really done before this season.
“I have to learn to pitch inside,” Anderson said. “I was always a reliever [in college] and I have always lived on the outside part of the plate, so now I have to learn to establish both sides of the plate. It is more of a mental block, especially when you face a lefty. Most of the time I am facing a righty so I am used to going to that side of the plate anyway when I am going inside to a lefty, but it is still a mental thing going inside to them as if you leave it over the middle they are going to hit it pretty hard so you have to get it in there.”
One of the biggest keys to the development of Anderson this season has been the rapid improvement of his new cutter-slider pitch. It is a pitch with action that is caught in between simply being called a slider or cutter, but either way it has been very effective for him this season. He has used the new pitch as his primary secondary weapon in order to help speed up the development process with it.
“I just started throwing it last year in Mahoning Valley,” Anderson said. “When I got there, [pitching coach Greg Hibbard] showed me how to hold the cutter. It is the same as my fastball grip but I turn the ball a little bit. I have thrown my curveball and changeup since college though I have not thrown them much this year as I have been able to get outs mostly with my fastball-cutter. I can still always go back to those pitches. It has just been working so I have been sticking with it.”
Now that the cutter is coming along well the Indians would like to see Anderson start mixing in his curveball a little more. His changeup is actually better than his curveball because he has more confidence throwing it, but the curveball can help him give hitters a different look.
Anderson is also working on the finer points of pitching, things like fielding his position and controlling the running game.
“They have not really messed with my mechanics or delivery much,” Anderson said. “Mainly we are focusing on the mental side with fielding my position after I throw a pitch because I am pretty fresh to pitching. I feel like I am coming along pretty well. They are just helping me get better.”
With so many things to work on and so much to learn at once, there are bound to be some rough patches over the course of the season. Anderson understands this and just takes an even keel approach to his performance and does his best to avoid looking at his stats whether they are good or bad.
“I don’t even look at my stats as I just want to do anything I can do to help my team win,” Anderson said. “I know everything else with the stats and stuff will take care of itself. I don’t focus on just making myself better, I just want to try and win. That is the way I have always looked at it.”
The Indians selected Anderson in the 14th round of the 2011 Draft out of Feather River College, a junior college in California. Even though he came from a small school, his draft stock was high and he had a commitment to go to TCU before agreeing to sign with the Indians for a $250,000 signing bonus.
“It was unbelievable,” Anderson said about being drafted. “I had signed with TCU so I was excited to go there. I kind of just took the draft as what it was going to be and went with it. I pitched in the summer and the Indians came out and watched me, and eventually at the end we were able to work something out. It is like a dream becoming a reality. Graduating from high school and going to college I never thought I would be playing professional baseball. It is an honor to be here and I just love it.”
A year removed from the draft and signing process, Anderson has no regrets about his decision to turn pro.
“I am in this 100% and I don’t regret any decision I have made,” Anderson said. “This is the most fun I have ever had.”
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