Efficient Heaney impresses in Angels debut
Club's top prospect fans five over six innings with 83 pitches vs. Astros
ANAHEIM -- Andrew Heaney's 33rd pitch as an Angel -- a 93-mph, inside-corner fastball in the fourth inning Wednesday -- ran hard past Carlos Correa's back leg on a 2-2 count, and home plate umpire John Hirschbeck made the call. In his Angels debut, the 24-year-old left-hander, who was drafted ninth overall by the Marlins in 2012, had just recorded his first strikeout in Anaheim -- by ringing up his Draft's No. 1 pick.
Heaney, the Angels' top prospect and the No. 19 prospect in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com, pitched like it in the Angels' 2-1, 13-inning win. He kept the American League West leaders off-balance for six sharp innings -- scattering four hits, striking out five and allowing only a run on an economical 83 pitches.
"This is the guy that I know our scouting department and [general manager Jerry Dipoto] had hoped we would see in the spring," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's got real stuff. Hopefully it's the start of something big for us."
Working out of his free, easy windup, Heaney hummed in fastballs that sat mainly in the low 90s with solid action and mixed in his low-80s slider and mid-80s changeup. His delivery, which had been too askew and closed-off during Spring Training, was much straighter to the plate.
"This wasn't a first impression," Heaney said. "I probably didn't make the greatest one in Spring Training. Now that I'm here, I just want to prove I can stay."
He took a step toward doing that on Wednesday, and he's earned at least one more start, Scioscia said.
Heaney kept the home run-happy Astros in the park, despite pitching to contact for most of the early innings. In Heaney's first four frames, he generated just three swings-and-misses, but he faced the minimum while recording 11 of the 12 outs on balls in play. The one non-contact out was the called strikeout of Correa.
And in the fifth and sixth innings, Heaney started getting whiffs -- 11 swings-and-misses -- which helped produce four strikeouts.
Heaney allowed his lone run in the sixth, on Correa's RBI double to left field, but he also notched three swinging strikeouts. The one that ended the inning, and his day, was the most impressive: Heaney got Colby Rasmus to wave at three straight sliders to strand runners at first and second and keep the game tied at one.
"His fastball command was a little bit better -- I think that's one thing that kept him in counts and kept him in the game longer," catcher Chris Iannetta said. "And then you're starting to see that slider develop a little bit more from where it was in the spring. He's still a work in progress, still has a ways to go, but he definitely made some positive strides."
A home run-free game against the Astros, who lead the Major Leagues with 107 long balls, was just what the Angels were hoping to get from their young lefty. Heaney -- acquired from the Dodgers for Howie Kendrick this offseason -- was called up Wednesday morning to take the spot of Matt Shoemaker, who Scioscia felt needed to work on locating his fastball, as he's surrendered 15 home runs this season. And he knocked Houston's power out.
"He was hitting his spots and it was a really good day for him," said Houston's Marwin Gonzalez. "We couldn't do anything about it. We did good that we scored one run against him."
• With Andy MacPhail reportedly set to take over the Phillies' baseball-operations decisions, Angels assistant general manager Matt Klentak's name has surfaced as a candidate to join the new front office in Philadelphia, sources have told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. MacPhail hired Klentak, 34, as Orioles director of baseball operations in 2008, making him one of the youngest executives in baseball at the time.
• The left-handed-hitting Kyle Kubitza started and went 0-for-3 in place of the right-handed-hitting David Freese on Wednesday, against Astros right-hander Lance McCullers. Freese's hamstring is no longer bothering him, but he's batting .238 this month and Scioscia said he has to work on his timing. Freese struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning on Wednesday.
• The Angels currently have all three of their left-handed starters -- Heaney, Santiago and C.J. Wilson, in that order -- stacked together. More important to the Angels, though, is splitting up the pitchers who have the best chance to consistently pitch deep in games. In this order, Garrett Richards starts after the struggling Shoemaker.