Indians’ Cody Allen Finishes Quick MLB Ascent

Cody Allen had never been more excited to pick up the check.

The Orlando native was at a steakhouse in Cleveland and was surrounded by family, from his parents and grandparents to his sister. Also joining him were his high school coach Pete Post, as well as his college coaches, Craig Cozart and Bryan Peters. They were up to see the righthander who they had recruited to two schools and tutored at High Point make his major league debut in the Indians bullpen in late July.

When the check came, Allen reached for it, telling everyone at the table, “I’ve been waiting a long time to do this.”

On a day off three days later, Allen added, “All of them had done so much to help me, to get me where I am now. It was the least I could do to say thank you to all of them.”

Some 2011 draftees got to pick up that check last summer when they signed for millions. The 2011 draft has been hailed as one of the deepest ever, with more than 20 pitchers signing for bonuses in excess of $1 million.

Allen, who was selected in the 23rd round, beat all but one of them (and all the position players too) to the major leagues. Trevor Bauer, the third overall pick in 2011, got to the majors more quickly, though he already had been sent back to the minors when Allen made his debut.

That Bauer was the first player from the 2011 draft to reach the major leagues was no surprise. Allen, on the other hand, came out of nowhere, though he did sign for $125,000—a sign the Indians recognized his potential.

Still, Cozart, the head coach at High Point, can’t figure out why Allen lasted until the 23rd round, seven rounds later than he went in 2010 out of St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC, when the Indians also drafted him.

“I’m completely baffled,” Cozart said. “He was sitting 92-94 (mph) in some starts for us, pretty regularly.”

Close To Cozart

Allen took a winding path to High Point, following Cozart most of the way.

Allen first met the coach in middle school after going to a baseball camp at Central Florida, where Cozart was an assistant from 1997-2008. Cozart recruited Allen, and stuck with him when Allen’s velocity dipped as a senior at Orlando’s Boone High. Allen showed promise as a freshman in 2008 before having Tommy John surgery.

In the meantime, UCF changed coaching staffs, so Allen transferred to St. Pete for the 2010 season. After proving he was healthy again, he reunited with Cozart at High Point for the 2011 season. Allen went 4-6, 3.12 as a fourth-year junior with the Panthers, with 89 strikeouts in 84 innings.

Even though Cozart has seen Allen pitch for years, he said he’s still impressed by the rapid improvement Allen has made as a professional.

“I know last year I told him he might throw 100 mph one day,” Cozart said. “Still, scouts were telling me he was throwing 97-98 in spring training, and the velocity on his curveball is a surprise. He’s always thrown a power breaking ball, and it was 79-81 here, but it’s 85-86 now, and it’s still a curveball with tremendous depth, a real out pitch.”

The curve was what attracted the Indians to Allen in the first place—as well as his makeup—and it’s what allowed him to finish his pro debut last year at Double-A Akron. In our Indians Draft Report Cards last fall, Allen earned plaudits as the Best Debut, Best Secondary Pitch, Best Late-Round Pick and (of course) Closest to the Majors in their 2011 draft class.

Allen credits his improvements to health, being further removed from Tommy John surgery, the arm strength he’s gained from throwing more regularly as a reliever and getting his lower half loaded more in his delivery.

“The big thing for me last year wasn’t so much doing well numbers-wise as just that I got better,” Allen said. “My velocity got better, my breaking ball got better, I got better plane on my fastball, I got better out of the stretch. I just think going to the bullpen, I got a lot of confidence and I was able to use all the resources around me.

“Then the springboard for me this year was spring training. I had a chance to pitch in two games in big league camp and then pitched for Cleveland in an exhibition game against (high Class A) Carolina, so I pitched in front of the big league staff three times. I threw well, and (pitching coach) Scott Radinsky kept calling and asking about me, took an interest in me.”

In July, Radinsky and the big league club came calling. Allen has walked more than he likes, with four in his first four outings—”I absolutely hate the walks, I just can’t stand it.”—but he had yet to give up a run in 5 1â"3 innings. The next step is to contribute in higher-leverage situations in a deep, effective Indians bullpen. Striking out hitters like the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, as he did July 25, will help him reach that goal.

“It’s been an unbelievable ride,” Allen said. “I’m trying not to be in awe of it too much. There’s a moment every day where I’m like, ‘I’m in the big leagues.’ But I still want to stay confident and stay aggressive. I’m not here to pitch backward or nibble.”