Command Is Back For Heredia

Jairo Heredia is back to his stellar command

With a new look confidence and an arsenal of pitches to make opposing hitters look out of place, Jairo Heredia's 2011 campaign has been nothing short of impressive, making his recent success overshadow last year's injury plagued season.

In 2010, Jairo Heredia started in high-A Tampa but ended the season in low-A Charleston after bouts of ineffectiveness, although he was never 100 percent healthy on the mound. He suffered from shoulder inflammation but came into 2011 feeling fresh and ready to pitch.

"My shoulder feels good, I've put a lot of work to make it feel better," Heredia said. "I had a lot of inflammation last year but a lot of hard work put me to where I am today."

With shoulder problems in the rear-view mirror, Heredia has been Tampa's number one pitcher all season on the bump. As the 6-foot-1, 190-pound pitcher from the Dominican Republic takes the mound for the Yankees, the feel of winning starts to become normal.

Heredia is currently sporting a 7-1 record and has piled up a staggering 59 strikeouts in 56.1 innings pitched. His ERA sits at 3.36 half way through the 2011 season.

The key to the right-handers success is his confidence, and how being healthy not only shows the best of someone, but gives them back their normal feel on the mound.

"He now has confidence," said Tampa pitching coach, Jeff Ware. "He is confident, healthy and doesn't have to go out there every fifth day wondering about his arm and if it will be sore or tight. He's been healthy all but one start this year so far, which has brought the best out of his pitches."

Heredia possesses a fastball, curveball and a changeup that has been dangerous for opposing hitters. With three pitches that have been deadly for Heredia, he is also throwing them with magnificent command.

Ware has noticed his success and realizes what is making him such a tough pitcher in 2011.

"The difference between the beginning of the season and now is his command," said Ware. "His fastball is down in the zone and he's been able to throw his curveball anywhere in the count for strikes. He can also throw his changeup in any count, whether it's a pitching count, ahead or behind in the count, it doesn't really matter."

With command being a strong point for Heredia, Tampa catcher, Kyle Higashioka, has also noticed how of all the right-handers pitches have possessed amazing command.

"[Jairo] has really started to keep the ball down very well and he's showing a lot of good fastball command and also offspeed command," said Higashioka. "He has really buckled down in that category."

While Heredia can retire batters with any of his three pitches, the coaching staff and catchers have noticed one pitch in particular that has been the most challenging for hitters and the most deadly for Heredia is his curveball.

His curveball sits in the high 70s and the rotation and spin on his curve has no doubt helped the pitch become a strikeout pitch.

"His strikeout pitch right now is definitely his curveball," said Ware. "It's a tight spinning curveball which is hard to pick up and has a lot of hard depth to it. It has been getting a lot of swing and misses especially when he gets ahead in the count."

Although his curveball has been used to make the batters walk back to their respective dugout, Heredia also uses the pitch to get ahead in the count. With an effective fastball and curveball, he has shown to throw it anytime, which has caused confusion for opposing batters.

Last Thursday night, Heredia took the mound against the Lakeland Flying Tigers in the Yankees' last game before the All-Star Break. As the lengthy 21-year old started the game, his curveball helped him pick up his seventh win and fifth victory in a row.

He did surrender seven hits which were the most he has let up in his past ten starts, but he only allowed one run and struck out eight batters in six innings of work. The Yankees won 3-1.

As for Heredia, his season has been great and he knows that hard work and dedication is the reason for his success in 2011.

"I have a lot of dedication to the game and my focus on my pitching is why I think I'm having a good season," Heredia said. "I try and always have fun on the mound and come to the field with a smile on my face. It's been a great year so far."

As the Yankees end their first have the season three games over .500, they can thank Jairo Heredia for leading the Yankees to a staggering 26-12 in their past 38 games.

With the Yankees entering the second half of the 2011 season, a healthy and effective Heredia might be the most important piece for the team to potentially capture their third consecutive Florida State League championship.

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