This past Sunday, Cody Anderson returned to the mound. For the first time in 26 months, he threw pitches to major leaguers, finally overcoming what’s been a hell of a recovery from Tommy John surgery.
It seems like so long ago that Anderson was something resembling the Next Big Thing in Cleveland pitching. With Mike Clevinger and now Shane Bieber, Anderson has passed halfway out of our memory, more a half a mention at the bottom of an article or a blurb at the end of a pool report than an actual player on the 40-man roster.
But I, at least, have watched and waited as Anderson all but disappeared from the public eye, always waiting for his reemergence. And for one inning at least, we got what we were waiting for. There’s no video, there’s no radar gun information on velocity, there’s not any pitch tracking information, but he did, in fact pitch. And what we have is this:
These are the pitch charts for his five at-bats against the Royals on Sunday. He gave up a hit, walked one, and eked out three outs from some overly aggressive Kansas City prospects.
There’s a trend here. Not a good one, either. Throwing the ball up in the zone with great velocity and high spin can really work effectively for pitchers. Problem being, Anderson at his best averaged 95 on his four-seam, barely above average these days. We didn’t have a gun on his pitches this first start, so we have no way of knowing what he was hitting this time around, but a leap to the upper 90’s coming off arm surgery seems... unlikely.
Not that it’s impossible, Charlie Morton saw his average fastball leap from 92.9 with the Phillies to 96 with the Astros, and by his own admission it was simply by trying to throw harder. Anderson’s had a lot of time to sit on his butt and think about what it would take to succeed as a pitcher and crack that crowded rotation in Cleveland. You’d hope that the Indians gave him a roadmap for that, but even barring that he’s seen Trevor Bauer forge himself into a Cy Young candidate despite only above average skills. He’s been away from the game itself for two years now, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been working. Even with all that though, throwing the ball up like that — and actually missing the zone for most of them - is simply not good.
There’s little if anything to glean from this one inning, only eight pitches. It’s a data point with too much noise. He was amped on adrenaline, he was rusty, he was facing terrible hitters, there’s any number of other variables including he forgot how much he could sweat. He got the outs that he needed to get, but it was not a performance to draw any real conclusions from. It’s a perfect example of how process in Spring Training is paramount, with results simply not mattering. If he pitched like that in the regular season, Anderson would see himself making a quick exit.
But it did happen, and that’s a step in the right direction. That’s where Anderson is in his own process. The Indians have blessed baseball with a glut of pitching talent, so forgetting that Anderson even existed is kind of forgivable. But now that he’s back, let’s hope for nothing but big things from the big guy.