The State College Spikes fell flat in Luis Heredia’s second start in the New York-Penn League Tuesday in Batavia, N.Y. The Spikes fell to 6-3, while Batavia improved to 4-5. State College made some miscues in the field that spiraled into runs for Batavia, allowing the Muckdogs to secure a 3-1 win at Dwyer Stadium. It was the second game of a three-game set.
The 6-foot-6 Mexican right-hander, just 17 years-old, continued to impress in his second start. He showed great maturity, calmness, and patience, according to his coaches and teammates. He allowed eight hits, two runs (one of which was unearned), struck out three, and didn’t walk anyone over his five innings of work. His fastball sat 91-92 in the first inning. He touched 93 during the first inning. His changeup, which he effectively kept down in the zone, sat at 84-85. It took him 18 pitches to get out of the first.
In the second inning, Heredia’s fastball sat at 89-91. He also flashed a curveball that came in at 73. His velocity was much the same in the third inning as he looked more efficient. It took him 41 pitches to get through three innings.
Heredia demonstrated his eye for the game when he told me after the game that he noticed some Batavia tendencies in Monday’s game. That allowed him to recognize that he might have some success with his curveball. He used the pitch effectively throughout the start. But it was especially effective during the fourth inning when it sat at 73-74 and featured a tighter spin. During the fourth, he threw 17 pitches, eight of which were off-speed.
“We were ready to make a move with him and he was pretty much gassed,” Turgeon said. “I wanted to go and see what he had inside. He convinced me to leave him in the game, and I said, ‘Go for it, man.’ He showed me and he struck out a really good hitter in a big situation.”
“He told me, ‘Do you want to finish here or do you want to take this guy?’ I told him that I wanted to take this guy,” Heredia said after the game.
Heredia delivered his strongest sequence of the night, a three-pitch strikeout of Kolby Byrd.
“The think that impresses me most is just his maturity on the mound,” State College catcher Jacob Stallings said. “When ‘Turg’ came out there in the fifth inning with guys on first and third, Luis was as calm as can be, saying he wanted to stay in the game. And then he struck the guy out on three pitches.”
“That’s the biggest thing, competing through those things (adversity and fielding errors),” State College pitching coach Justin Meccage said. “The big punch-out at the end was extremely exciting. That’s something that all of our guys have been encouraged to do, compete no matter the umpire, no matter the field conditions, no matter the weather. You compete no matter what and that’s what he did tonight. It tells me what a guy wants to compete and that he wants the ball. He wants to finish a good outing. I was very happy to see that. I saw him change gears there.”
Stallings said he was impressed by his young teammate’s even keel and composure during Tuesday’s start.
“He caught a few unlucky breaks,” Stallings said. “We didn’t make a play here or there for him. That was a little unfortunate, but he was good. He threw his changeup very effectively tonight. He really threw his fastball down in the zone, which made his changeup that much harder to hit. His fastball and changeup command were really good tonight. He was just down in the zone the whole night. He gave up one ball to (Batavia’s Garrett) Wittels that hit the wall, and there were a few plays that should’ve been made, and would’ve been made on most nights. It happens, errors happen. We couldn’t pick him up offensively, but he was sure good.”
Meccage and Turgeon noticed much of the same from Heredia. It is also apparent that Meccage’s message is really sinking in with Heredia.
“The downhill fastball is his deal and I thought he did a tremendous job of pounding the strike zone,” Meccage said. “He was getting contact. That is something we are encouraging him to do, compete in the strike zone. There were times where he was up a little bit, but I thought for the most part that he was down.”
“I thought he had a better feel for his changeup, and I thought his breaking ball had tighter spin to it,” Turgeon added. “I think that’s a sign of him settling in, and I think it is only going to get better. I think it is one of those things where he will keep refining his secondary stuff and gaining more confidence. I think what it says is that he is wired right. He is a very calm guy and he is a very competitive guy. A lot of confidence probably comes from the significant talent he has. I think he is beyond his years and I think he was raised right.”
Stallings, a 2012 seventh-round pick, played at the University of North Carolina. And the coaches at State College view him as a calming influence on the young pitching staff.
“He is tremendous,” Meccage said. “He gives us some veteran leadership. He is almost a coach out there on the field, a guy who can help coach these guys through situations. He has a feel for pitch-calling and that is very nice to see at this level. It’s a nice addition.”
Stallings, who played in 200 career games at North Carolina, can draw on a wealth of experience to help the pitching staff.
“I think I can just help them calm down during games,” Stallings said. “I’ve caught first-rounders, I’ve caught guys who have played in the big leagues and really seen how they go about their work. We are professionals now. I can just use my maturity and experience to help them. I’ve been in big situations, I’ve played in Omaha, and I feel like I can use that experience, just to help them settle down.”
He said the first few weeks of professional baseball have presented him with some challenges, but that he is starting to feel more comfortable with every passing day.
“I would like to be swinging the bat a little better,” Stallings said. “Before tonight, the past three games, I felt like I had started to get my rhythm back. I had tough one tonight, but that happens. I am going to go 0-for-4 sometimes, that’s baseball. I didn’t feel like I blocked as well as I am capable of doing last night. Tonight, I really tried to do a better job of that and I felt like I did. That was nice to bounce back defensively and throw that guy (Wittels) out at second. I am just trying to fine-tune my game all around.”
— State College struggled in the field during Tuesday’s loss, making two errors. The error on second baseman Jodaneli Carvajal in the first inning allowed Batavia’s Breyvic Valera to reach. Valera then scored on Garrett Wittels’ double off the right field wall.
“I don’t think we played particularly well, and we were in a two-run ballgame,” Turgeon said. “We did compete. We made some pretty big defensive plays, but then we had some defensive gaffes with the error in the first. I thought the cuts and the relays were a little sloppy. I thought we competed, which I loved. That’s why we are all here. We are here to get better, and we’ve got some things to work on.”
— Walker Gourley made some strong plays in left field as he continued to learn a new position. His best play came in the second inning as he drifted into foul territory to snag a fly ball. After catching the ball, he delivered a strike to home that prevented the runner from tagging up.
— 2011 ninth-rounder Clay Holmes will make his second start of the season Wednesday in Batavia. I will again provide a player notebook, with some videos, following the game.