When Cody Anderson broke camp with the Carolina Mudcats in April, he couldn’t have foreseen the hardware he’d own by season’s end.
The right-hander from Quincy, Calif., had a decent season in his first full year as a pro, going 4-7 with a 3.64 ERA with Lake County of the Midwest League in 2012.
But as the Mudcats’ ace, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder by way of Feather River Junior College was completely dominant, going 9-4 with a 2.34 ERA in 123 1/3 innings, striking out 112 against 31 walks.
For that effort – as well as a first-class act off the field – Anderson won three awards.
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Anderson – who pitched in the Carolina League-California League All-Star Game, had a streak of 26 1/3 innings without a walk in late April and early May and recorded 10 quality starts before being called up to Double-A Akron – was named the Carolina League’s pitcher of the year in a vote of league managers, general managers and media.
He also won the league’s Matt Minker Community Service award, as well as sharing the team’s Ed Hales Award – awarded in recognition of the player(s) who best exemplifies unselfish spirit, dedication and commitment to the community – with catcher Tony Wolters.
An unconventional path
Anderson was the Cleveland Indians’ 14th-round draft pick in 2011, staying in college after being picked in the 17th round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010.
Anderson was a reliever in high school when he wasn’t in the outfield, also playing football and basketball.
“I pitched about 25 innings in high school,” Anderson explained. “When I got to my junior college and tried out for the baseball team, I ended up transitioning from outfield to pitcher. I threw about 14 innings my first year as a reliever and got drafted by the Rays, kind of out of nowhere. They said they liked my body and my arm strength.
“Then I pitched 40 innings as a sophomore and the Indians drafted me. I was raw and didn’t know how to pitch, but in my first spring training (Indians minor-league pitching coordinator) Mickey Callaway and (Mudcats pitching coach) Jeff Harris pushed me into being a starter.”
The experiment has worked out well.
“I think experience was the big difference,” Mudcats manager David Wallace said. “He’s a guy who didn’t have a conventional path to professional baseball, but the more innings he logs the better he’s going to get.
“He’s got power. He has a great desire to learn the art of pitching. In the Carolina League sometimes he could just reach back and chuck the ball. At the upper levels he may have to pitch his way out of it a little better. But it’s a good sign that he had that ability to do that.”
Anderson said he even surprised himself.
“Last year I just did a lot of throwing,” said Anderson, whose fastball has topped out at 97 mph. “This year I learned how to throw a curveball and a changeup more effectively. I kind of bought into it and realized that’s what’s going to get me to the next level.
“And with the Mudcats, I had a great defense behind me. But I was lucky to get as many wins as I did. I just tried to keep it close and let the rest take care of itself.”
A presence in and out of the clubhouse
And Anderson’s presence in the clubhouse was a plus, Wallace said.
“He’s just such a positive guy to be around,” the manager said. “He knew when to be serious and when to cut up, and when he and (Tyler) Naquin were called up, the energy in the clubhouse took a little bit of a dip. That’s something you hope you have on a team, but you can’t create it. It just happens. He naturally lifted the spirits of our club sometimes and we needed that.”
Anderson said as an amateur he hadn’t had as many opportunities to do community work, such as his visits to Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh and work with the Miracle League, a baseball league for children with disabilities.
“But anytime something asked of the baseball team I sign up for it,” Anderson said. “Any time there are young kids involved I want to set a good example and a role model. I think it’s important as a professional baseball player to do that. If I have one kid looking up to me in a way that will help him, it’s worth it to go every time.
“Miracle League is a great program. It gives me chills thinking about it. Those kids enjoy it so much. We do a lot of encouraging and teach them a little bit about what baseball is about.”
Wallace said players like Anderson set great examples for their teammates as well.
“I love the fact that our organization values the type of player who thinks it’s not just about baseball,” Wallace said. “Cody was always willing to do those types of things and put his personal stuff aside. When your best player or one of your best players is doing that, it encourages everybody else. They think ‘If he can do that, I can do it, too.’ And then you’ve got a whole team doing things for the kids and the community.”
Anderson said he was happy to be able to share the team award with Wolters, who switched from the middle infield to catcher in April.
“Playing with him is great,” Anderson said. “It was fun to see him learn, and it taught me a lot about pitching just helping him and him helping me.”
Anderson said despite the team’s losing record, he had good feelings about the season.
“The Mudcats have great fans and a great facility, and the GM (Joe Kremer) does a good job,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t have been happier. And on the team everybody kind of trusted each other and knew that if one went down somebody else would pick him up.”