CLEVELAND -- It's no secret that Cody Anderson struggled last season. Scouts and fans alike hypothesized as to what could have been behind the rough patch for the No. 10 Indians prospect, according to MLB.com. Was he hurt? Was he tinkering with his mechanics?
Look no further. Tribe manager Terry Francona laid all the theories to rest on Monday and explained the true cause of Anderson's disappointing 2014.
"He was kind of doing some things that weren't the best for him," Francona said. "Remember the story of him chopping wood or chopping trees down? That's what he looked like -- like a lumberjack. But he didn't have that much flexibility and it was hard for him to drive the ball down in the zone."
Anderson, sometimes referred to as "Big Country," is seen in his Twitter avatar after a hunting expedition. He spent the 2013 offseason gaining muscle by chopping wood and reportedly came into camp stiff. Upright in his delivery, Anderson was unable to consistently keep the ball down in the zone.
Anderson abstained from the ax work this past offseason and took part in a strength and conditioning program at the Indians' complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Now, he finds himself in better baseball shape, rather than lumberjack shape.
"They were hitting it pretty good because everything was up in the zone," Anderson said. "Basically it was just making the adjustment to get the ball down and not try to be too perfect. It was a good learning experience."
So, there's the tree-chopping explanation. But there's also a changeup.
Scouting reports have typically cited Anderson's cutter as his best secondary offering. For most of his life, Anderson said, that's been true. But recently, there's been a change.
"In 2013, they told me not to use my cutter anymore for that season," Anderson said. "It really forced me to use the changeup and either get hit or get people out with it. Over time it started to get better that year ... the cutter of course is always there, but now that's kind of my third-best pitch. They kind of flip-flop sometimes."
When Indians catcher Roberto Perez spoke with Anderson before his MLB debut on Sunday, he asked the big right-hander what had been working for him in the Minors this year. Fastball and a circle-change, Anderson replied. In Sunday's dominant start against the Rays, Anderson went to the changeup 17 times, and the cutter just eight.
What's the difference between last year's Anderson and this year's? The development of a changeup, giving him a weapon against opposite-handed hitters, and a transformation from lumberjack to pitcher.
"He's just made leaps and bounds on with his body," Francona said. "He may not pitch like that every time out, but all of a sudden you get this 6-foot-4 kid that looks pretty darn strong and looks like he's in the rotation, and it makes you feel pretty good about things."
August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.