GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- One goal has consumed Cody Anderson since last season ended. The pitcher could not shake that lingering taste of the big leagues and worked day in and day out, throughout the fall, over the winter and into this spring, with his mind focused on staying put.
On Wednesday morning, Anderson made the walk from his locker to manager Terry Francona's office, where Francona and Chris Antonetti, the team's president of baseball operations, waited with good news. All the work paid off: Anderson will open this season as Cleveland's No. 4 starter.
Anderson's response to the team's decision sums up his personality.
"He didn't crack a smile. He didn't laugh," Antonetti said. "He was just like, 'OK, I've got a lot of work to do.'"
The Indians decided to go with Anderson and fellow right-hander Josh Tomlin for their fourth and fifth rotation spots, respectively. Each pitcher relies on pinpoint control more than overpowering velocity, though the speeds on Anderson's pitches jumped this spring in the wake of an offseason regimen that dramatically improved his physical condition.
As a result of those decisions, righty Trevor Bauer will begin the season in the bullpen for Cleveland. Looking strictly at Cactus League ERA, Bauer (2.25) had the upper hand on the other two righties. He also had a spike in velocity and an encouraging walk rate (four in 20 innings). Cleveland's decision was never going to be based on raw Spring Training statistics, though.
"This is not an indictment on Trevor, because he had a pretty good spring," Francona said. "But, sending Cody Anderson to Triple-A, I don't think any of us thought that was the right thing to do. This kid came up last year and right smack in the middle of the season, not only managed to survive, but he helped us win."
The Indians felt Anderson had more than earned the right to remain in the rotation and the team felt Tomlin, who has previous bullpen experience, was best suited for the fifth spot. With a handful of off-days throughout April and early May, Tomlin could face prolonged periods of not starting or temporary stints in the bullpen. Cleveland did not want to put Bauer in that position.
Tomlin has maintained that -- in the name of winning -- he is willing to embrace any role the Indians have to offer.
"I'll say the same thing. I don't care," Tomlin said. "And I'm going to continue to say that. My job is to get outs, whether that's in the bullpen, starting, I don't know, whatever they tell me to do. It's my job to do it to the best of my ability."
Last season, Tomlin returned from right shoulder surgery down the stretch and went 7-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 10 starts, posting a 0.84 WHIP and a .195 opponents' batting average in 65 2/3 innings. In January, the Indians rewarded Tomlin -- the longest-tenured player in the organization -- with a two-year contract extension that includes a team option for 2018.
One way or another, Tomlin was going to be on the pitching staff.
"The first thing he said was, 'Put me in the 'pen,'" Francona said. "We told him, 'You're the fifth starter, because we think you can handle it, not because you can't pitch.' He's about as strong mentally as anybody you're ever going to find."
Anderson, 25, went 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 starts last season, in which he quickly climbed from Double-A to the Majors as Cleveland sorted through issues at the back end of its rotation. In 91 1/3 innings, he limited batters to a .231 batting average mainly with a fastball-and-changeup mix. This spring, Anderson has shown great improvement with his curveball, has worked on a cutter and has sat around 94-97 mph with his fastball.
After the season, Anderson underwent an emergency appendectomy, revamped his nutrition program and attended Cleveland's strength-and-conditioning camp. When he arrived for Spring Training, Anderson dropped jaws around the team with his physical shape.
"He's actually remade his body," Francona said. "He's throwing harder. He's actually pitching harder. It's demeaning to him [to say] throwing. He's pitching harder. He's missing bats. He's getting better by the day. This kid is light years beyond what somebody with his service time should be."
And, while Anderson knows his work is far from done, Wednesday's news allowed him to relax some after months of being consumed with one goal.
"For the last probably six months, I've been pretty tense," Anderson said, "just trying to push the limits on what I can do and working as hard as I can every day to put myself in the best position. When [Francona] told me, it was almost like kind of a weight lifted off my shoulders. And now I can just go out there and play."