From Quincy to Cleveland, Anderson keeps level head

Rookie pitcher is a favorite son at home -- and a huge arm in the Indians' promising rotation

From Quincy to Cleveland, Anderson keeps level head

CLEVELAND -- Cody Anderson left his small California hometown last spring unsure of what was in store for him this season. Following a breakout showing with the Indians, the rookie pitcher returned home this month as a local hero.

Wearing his home white Cleveland jersey, along with jeans and cowboy boots that personify the pitcher known as "Big Country" back home, Anderson served as the grand marshal for the homecoming parade in Quincy, Calif., on Friday. He spoke at a high school assembly and was his town's guest of honor at that evening's football game.

Anderson's personal homecoming put the final touch on his memorable year.

"It's been a lot of fun," Anderson said before departing Cleveland for the cross-country drive back home. "I've never had this much fun playing baseball, and it's the same game we were playing since Little League. It's been a lot of fun with a lot of energy."

The 25-year-old Anderson played a large role in the Tribe's second-half success, which helped the team pull back into contention until the final week of the season. Anderson's emergence as a reliable fifth starter -- after he endured a rough showing at Double-A Akron in 2014 -- gives the Indians some more optimism that the back end of the rotation is in good hands for next year.

Overall, Anderson went 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 starts in his rookie season with the Indians.

Among Cleveland pitchers with at least 15 starts in their rookie season, his ERA was the lowest since Dennis Eckersley had a 2.60 ERA in 1975. Anderson's .231 opponents' average was the lowest in that grouping since 2001 (CC Sabathia) and his .282 opponents' on-base percentage is the lowest on record for an Indians rookie (minimum 15 starts).

"The guy came out, it was like he knew exactly what pitches worked up here and what pitches didn't," Indians catcher Yan Gomes said. "It was pretty amazing. He's got a plus-plus changeup. I think everybody knows that. He keeps the ball down. I think that's the most important thing that, from our organization, that wasn't something we needed to touch up on him.

"He always kept the ball down and he really learned from any type of mistake that he did. You saw him, he never really got rattled."

Gomes stopped and smiled.

"He just sweated a lot," the catcher added with a laugh. "That's something we probably need to work on."

Anderson's performance was even more impressive when considering that he went 4-11 with a 5.44 ERA in 25 starts at Double-A in the previous season. Following that showing, the big right-hander went to work over the winter on his physical condition, focusing on flexibility. He blew Cleveland's player development staff away with the progress he made in only a few short months.

"He went above and beyond and made more progress in that than almost any player we've had," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "That set the foundation for him to come in and have success this year."

Anderson posted a 1.89 ERA in 13 starts between Double-A and Triple-A before earning a promotion to Cleveland.

The rookie ended his season by going 5-0 with a 1.38 ERA over the final month, earning the American League's Pitcher of the Month honors for September. It was a strong finish to a solid debut season, but it hadn't all sunk in yet before the pitcher left for his offseason.

"Maybe down the road, I'll look back," Anderson said.

Reality surely set in more as the pitcher walked through Quincy.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.