Heredia Back On The Radar

Heredia was promoted to Triple-A on Wednesday

TRENTON, NJ - At one point in time right-hander Jairo Heredia was considered one of the top prospects in the Yankee farm system. In fact, by all accounts he didn't have a weakness in his game. That was, however, until he injured his pitching shoulder and missed the entire 2012 season. He is back now though and pitching like a top prospect once again.

Despite starting in three of his last six games pitched, things are different for Jairo Heredia this year. For a guy who only pitched in relief twice in his previous two seasons [not including 2012 when he missed time due to a shoulder injury], Heredia is now in a role with the Trenton Thunder where he'll be utilized as a reliever while being able to start a game when necessary.

For Thunder Manager Tony Franklin, Heredia is one of those versatile pitchers valuable to any roster.

"He's one of those guys who you can spot start when you have some injuries; when you have to push some guys back," Franklin said. "You have to have that go-to guy.

He's that we've been going to and every year, you have one of those guys. I think overall, his role is a reliever, but if you need some innings to get you through the nine, he's the guy who can do that."

A shoulder surgery in the 2012 season made 2013 a season of slow progress back into the starting rotation of Staten Island and Tampa. He posted a 4-2 record with a 3.32 ERA in 13 starts, averaging approximately five innings pitched per game.

Heredia sees 2014 as a year where he can finally get back to working hard, making progress, and showing signs of Major League potential again. He's not starting much now, but instead is satisfied with being a reliable option out of the bullpen.

"Right now, I'm a reliever," Heredia said. "So when coach tells me that he needs me, I'm just going in and I'm pitching, so I'm really working in that situation.

"My whole life, I was a starter. So right now, I'm only preparing like a reliever and working hard. I like it, and right now, my shoulder feels really great, so I feel great."

While in the role, he's not throwing as many pitches as he's used to, but can work every day on honing his skills while developing some newer pitches.

What's been impressive about Heredia is his curveball and changeup; the secondary pitches. The curveball has been a pitch throughout his career that has helped him rise up the Yankees farm system. It's been impressive amongst all of the coaches on the Thunder staff.

"His breaking ball has been sharp, and he's been able to expand with it," Trenton pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. "It's very deceptive, he gets a lot of chases, swings and misses, able to throw it for strikes, both sides of the plate, so it's been a big pitch for him and an effective put-away pitch."

Also with his secondary pitches are Heredia's changeups. Yes, plural, changeups. They're also two pitches that have been frequent this season, and had Heredia excited about using them in the bullpen throughout the year.

"Yes, I throw two of them," Heredia said. "One changeup is hard, it's only for when I want a strike, and the other is not quite as hard, but it's thrown just for strikeouts. I'm really practicing and working hard on [those pitches], and with my shoulder, I feel great."

Specifically new to Heredia this year is a two-seam fastball that has movement on it. Unlike the four-seam, he can throw the two-seam with velocity and trick hitters into swinging at a pitch going away from them.

"I'm not really throwing a four seam [anymore], only two-seamers [now]," Heredia said. "It goes 92-94 and has reached 95 a couple times. My power is back in my shoulder and I feel good. Overall, right now I'm throwing a lot of the curve, two seam, and changeups."

What's been crucial for the development of Heredia's fastball is that he's still maintained command and consistently attacked the strike zone. Normally with developing a new pitch, the challenge comes when translating the bullpen work into an actual game.

For the whole season, Heredia has only walked six batters in 29 innings pitched. Add those six hitters to only 26 hits given up all season and his WHIP is at 1.10 for the season.

Overall, the goal is to keep Heredia, who was just promoted to Triple-A Scranton on Wednesday, in progress and keep him healthy.

"Here's what I like about Jairo, at this point," Franklin said. "He's hitting 93 and 94 with the fastball and it plays at the Major League level. He's not scattered with it.

"He's keeping it down in the zone and it's like Ivan Nova. Nova's stuff played when he was here. Right now for him, the first and foremost thing for Jairo is to stay healthy."

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