ALTOONA, Pa. – Luis Heredia was a 16-year-old kid when he signed with the Pirates seven years ago. When I saw him yesterday, he looked tall and slimmer, seemingly in fantastic physical condition, and much more mature. If you would have seen him six weeks ago, the “slimmer” and “fantastic physical condition” part of that description would have not been the case.

When Heredia reported to Spring Training this year, his opening physical revealed that he had hypertension. With his blood pressure over 200, Heredia was immediately put on a strict diet to lose the weight and help correct the condition.

“It’s weird because you feel good outside, but you don’t know what’s going on inside,” Heredia said after his Double-A debut on Friday night in Altoona. “It was my blood pressure. That’s why I changed my diet.”

He worked with a chef while in Bradenton and had to take a photo of every food that he ate and send it to him. The program that the Pirates implemented worked quickly and effectively for Heredia, as he lost 20 pounds in six weeks while at Pirate City.

“It was not easy,” Heredia said. “I had to watch my diet, and now I feel much better. I am looser and have more energy. My skin, my health, everything. . .”

Heredia did say that it was difficult at points over the past month and a half to watch what he was eating, as he would see his friends eating “good stuff”; however, it was a change that he knew he needed to make to be able to succeed. It took until late April, but now he has been granted the opportunity to take another giant step towards his goal of someday reaching the big leagues.

“I will keep fighting and compete every time to get to my goal,” Heredia said.

Altoona Manager Michael Ryan has seen the progression of Heredia through the years, and he says that his “improvements have been outstanding” over past year. One of the biggest differences is him being more aggressive coming out of the bullpen.

“I’ve had him early when he was just a baby, and I’ve had him when he was becoming a man,” Ryan said. “He’s a different pitcher coming out of the bullpen than he was as a starter. He’s got really good stuff, and he’s starting to locate some things. There were times before when he didn’t know where the baseball was going out of his hand. It’s different now.”

Heredia told the Pirates before last year that he felt most comfortable coming out of the bullpen, and he changed his pitch arsenal when making the move to a reliever. Once a four-seam, changeup, and cutter guy as a starter, Heredia is now working heavily with a two-seamer, changeup, and slider, with a four-seam fastball every once in a while when necessary. He learned the two-seamer from fellow Mexican pitcher Manny Delcarmen — who pitched professional for the Red Sox — while playing winter ball.

He made the change to throwing a two-seamer before the Pirates even realized it.

“Last year, when I started throwing the two-seam [for the Pirates], they asked me about it because they saw the ball move. They asked if I was throwing a two-seam, and I said ‘yes’,” Heredia explained about the development of the pitch.

He now feels that a combination of the four and two-seam will help him succeed in the bullpen. And succeeding is something he feels is not a choice, as it is his last year before minor league free agency.

“I got to give everything I have,” Heredia said. “My goal is to finish up [in the majors] no matter where. I need to have a better year this year than last year. I want to attack every players and every hitter.”

Down 20 pounds, with a blood pressure sitting somewhere around 115, Heredia is poised to take the next step. The player they call “Little Baby Face” — who has seemingly been around the Pirates’ organization for what feels like forever — is all of a sudden only two steps away from his goal. Friday night’s 1-2-3 ninth inning was just another step in the right direction.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Luis looked good last night. 11 pitches – 3 outs. It seems like ages ago I watched him in State College.

  2. I’m reading this while eating a Chick-fil-A Chicken Egg and Cheese Bagel, and will soon be enjoying a couple creme filled donuts with my coffee, sue me.

    GO LUIS.

    GO BUCS.

  3. Imagine how much more success teams could have with player development if they chose to invest in nutrition and diet throughout their minor league system instead of having the players subsist on fast food and PB&J.

    • Every fast food place does have healthy options but

      No good story ever started with: my friends and I went out for some salads.

      What about their mental health? At their ages, Would you rather have a super healthy meal cooked for you or go out to the local ‘choke and puke’ have some beers and try to play some baseball with the local ladies….

      • A lot of the local Harrisburg Senators live with Host Families and they provide a lot of well cooked and healthy home meals. There was an article last year in the local paper on it.

        I would imagine that other teams have a similar setup?

        But then, there are a lot of players who share apartments. They don’t get those healthy meals?

        • It’s not something you can answer as a group. A player like Heredia has no excuse to eat bad, he got a large bonus, he got paid to play winter ball too. Players in the DSL and GCL, Extended Spring Training and the Fall Instructional League get meals at the Academies. They have chefs/nutritionists there, so they are fine. But you can’t compare Heredia to someone like Logan Ratledge. But then again, you don’t know how the individuals players are in family life. Some players have parents who fund their dreams, so they have no food worries and if they do bad, it’s on them. It’s not a set answer for everyone and every affiliate handles meals different.

    • Hard to eat healthy on a minor leaguer’s salary and meal money, which are peanuts. Most of them didn’t get big bonuses. You’d think teams would be concerned about how it impacts nutrition. Instead, MLB fights tooth and nail to protect it’s below-minimum-wage MiL scale.

      • I thought that they supplied healthy post game options for their players in the minors?

        They really need to do at least that…AND PAY THESE GUYS MORE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!

        • FWIW, the Mexican team owning the rights to Heredia at the time he was signed pocketed 75% of his bonus, plus you figure at least 10% to agent and whatever taxes come off the top.

          Heredia himself probably saw less than $300k of his bonus, which still isn’t nothing, but far less than the bonus itself.

    • Plenty of healthy choices at fast food joints. Egg white and turkey sausage bowl at McDonald’s. Every fast food place offers an entree salad. What about carrying a cooler with fruit, veggies, cottage cheese, yogurts? Cans of sardines are a great snack. Tuna pouches?

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