Anderson sets tone by winning endurance test

In advance of battle for rotation spot, righty makes early impression with strength and conditioning

Anderson sets tone by winning endurance test

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It would be understandable to mistake Cody Anderson for a new player in camp with the Indians. It is not just the longer hair that now juts out from underneath his hat, or the stubble that has replaced the clean-shaven look the pitcher sported as a rookie last year.

For the second year in a row, Anderson arrived to camp with a transformed physique. Prior to last season, the big right-hander focused on flexibility. Heading into this Spring Training -- during which Anderson will compete for a spot in the starting rotation -- he revamped his nutritional program and shed away some extra weight.

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"He's remade his body. It's unbelievable," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "What a nice message for not only the guys that are working here, but the other guys that have played with him [in the Minor Leagues]. ... Now they see him having success in the Major Leagues. It sends a great message."

Anderson made a statement on Friday.

At the end of Cleveland's first official workout for pitchers and catchers, that group took part in an endurance test. The players lined up on an agility field at the Tribe's spring complex and did a series of timed sprints. They had the option of dropping out when they became too fatigued, or the strength coach could disqualify players for taking too much time on laps.

When it was all said and done, Anderson was the last man standing.

He jogged across the finish line to cheers from his teammates.

"I was not surprised to see he was down there as the last one," Double-A Akron manager Dave Wallace said. "That test is great. It's maybe even more mental than physical, because you've got to dig deep. That's something that's never been a question with Cody."

Wallace, who was Anderson's manager for part of the 2014-15 seasons with Akron, was the only non-player to participate in Friday's endurance drill. Wallace was convinced to take part after Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, picked Wallace to win the event. Francona, his coaches and other front-office members also made picks for the test.

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Francona's selection was righty Zach McAllister, who finished second in the same test a year ago to former Tribe reliever Nick Hagadone. McAllister dropped out roughly midway through the race. The final handful of competitors included Anderson, pitcher Josh Tomlin, catcher Yan Gomes and catcher Anthony Recker. Wallace also held on, finishing second overall after Tomlin, Gomes and Recker stopped running.

"He's a warrior," Anderson said of Wallace. "He was my manager for a couple years, so I couldn't let him win."

That said, it looked like Wallace could have kept going.

"I did not let Cody win," Wallace said with a grin. "He earned it."

Anderson will now try to earn the fifth spot in Cleveland's rotation. The 25-year-old started last season at Double-A, but made a quick ascent to the Majors. He wound up making 15 starts down the stretch for the Indians, going 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 91 1/3 innings. That showing has put Anderson in position to compete for the lone vacancy on the starting staff, along with righty Tomlin and lefty TJ House.

An emergency appendectomy operation on Dec. 15 slowed Anderson's offseason program, but it also helped him focus on his nutrition while rehabbing and training in Arizona for the past two-plus months.

"You don't realize how bad you eat until you really pay attention," Anderson said. "They made us three meals a day out here. It took all the thinking out of it and really gave us a chance to just take our nutrition and our endurance to the next level."

The results were evident in camp on Friday.

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