Heyer is working on his direction
Even though he suffered through a rough outing on Thursday night, giving up four earned runs to Vermont, Staten Island long reliever Craig Heyer is proving to be the one of the more reliable pitchers coming out of the bullpen for the Baby Bombers this season. Heyer, the Yankees’ 22nd round draft pick out of UNLV, is 4-0 this season with a 3.83 ERA.
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Craig Heyer attributes much of his success to the work he put in at college facing metal bats as a starting pitcher for the Rebels. Heyer went 6-8 with 79 K’s in 110.2 innings last season as a junior at UNLV.
“The pitchers basically have an advantage in this league with the wood bats,” said Heyer. “You try to work the corners a little bit more when facing metal bats but with wooden bats you don’t have to be as careful."
"Every team in this league has three or four hitters that can hit the ball a long way so you still have to be careful, but it is a lot different than facing metal bats,” he said.
The Staten Island coaching staff is working hard with Heyer to correct certain flaws in his delivery that went unaddressed in college.
“Nardi Contreras and Jeff Ware are working with me a lot to establish my balance point and to help me not be so quick rushing to the plate,” he revealed. “There are a number of drills we do. Nardi and Jeff are great coaches. They work with you on whatever you need."
“We’ve worked on breaking my hands later, also,” he said. “We’re trying to break them low and keep them low. Whether it’s Phil Hughes or Jeff Karstens, everyone is taught the same thing all the way up throughout the whole organization,” he added.
The Yankees are also focused on improving the 21-year-old Arizona native’s work in the field.
“I’ve been trying to establish my direction towards the plate to get a little bit more sink and run on the ball,” said Heyer. “It gives me more balance so I can better field my position. When you’re a pitcher you’re the fifth infielder so you need to be able do that in order to field bunts.”
Heyer has all ready racked up 42 1/3 innings this season; the most of any reliever on Staten Island’s staff. The right-hander’s ability to throw strikes is a big reason his number has been called so much.
“Right now my best pitch is my two-seam fastball. I can pretty much throw it for a strike anytime I want,” he said. “Obviously, as a pitcher there are going to be times when you can’t find the strike zone, but with a good two-seam, you just try to throw it down the middle, let the ball run, and let the hitter get himself out.”
“I think it’s working better against righties because with lefties, if the pitch has a little sink, it works into their bat a little bit more,” he said. “It rolls over against righties a little bit better than lefties.”
Though his two-seamer is working well, Heyer knows he’ll need to add more pitches to his repertoire to be successful at the professional level.
“I’m working on a changeup right now,” said Heyer. “You’ve got to have a third pitch...either a slider or changeup at any level. You can pitch front-to-back if you have a pretty good changeup,” he said.
Featured primarily as a starter in college, Heyer isn’t complaining about the Yankees’ decision to use him exclusively out of the pen this season.
“I’m in the long relief spot now, which is fine with me, but every pitcher hopes to start,” he admitted. “If I get to pitch and I’m getting some innings in, that’s fine with me — whatever they want me to do. I’m just trying to go out there, give it my best effort, throw some strikes, and get guys out.”
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