On Thursday I went over to Pirate City to watch Luis Heredia make a start in extended Spring Training against the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. There hasn’t been a lot to write about Heredia this year, as the Pirates have held him out of action. He only threw in a game once during Spring Training, which came at the end of March. He didn’t make his first extended Spring Training start until the end of April. Along the way Heredia was working on getting in shape, and working on a few minor adjustments with his delivery.
Heredia’s first two starts went two innings each. The start on Thursday was his third start, and he went three innings. The right-hander ran into trouble in the first. After striking out his first batter, Heredia allowed the next four batters to reach, capped off by a home run to the fourth batter of that series to make the score 4-0. The home run was a result of a slider that Heredia hung up in the zone.
After that, Heredia settled down. He gave up just one hit over the next two innings, with no runs. He finished with four runs on five hits in three innings, with no walks and four strikeouts. The no walks was a bit misleading, as Heredia had some control issues and was elevating his fastball at times out of the zone in the second and third innings. He was sitting in the 90-92 range with his fastball for the entire start, and mixed in his slider and changeup.
Heredia is throwing every five days now, and expects to be extended to four or five innings in his next start. He’s being stretched out, and should eventually join West Virginia.
“I’m ready right now, in good shape,” Heredia said. “Going to need a couple more innings to stay ready.”
The Pirates decided to hold Heredia back for a few reasons. First there’s the cold weather in the early part of the season in West Virginia. They also want to make sure he has enough innings to finish the season in West Virginia, rather than being shut down with a high innings count. There was also a hope that he would have enough innings left over for the Fall Instructional Leagues.
The time off allowed Heredia to get in better shape, work on his mechanics, and get more comfortable with his new slider. Heredia used to throw a slower curveball, but switched to a harder slider aimed at getting more strikeouts.
“I’m feeling good, comfortable on that one,” Heredia said of his slider.
The slider led to the home run on Thursday, but also led to some strikeouts and swings and misses when it was executed properly.
Once Heredia joins West Virginia, he should have a similar workload to his time in State College last year. In each of his games he was limited to five innings, never going beyond that mark. He will have the same limitations on him this year, aimed at controlling the innings totals for the 18-year-old. The plan all along has been for him to join West Virginia. At this point it looks like he’ll be closer to a Quinton Miller schedule (joining the team in late May), rather than a Jameson Taillon schedule (late-April).