Herrera's hard work lands him in Angels' bullpen
ANAHEIM -- Right-handed reliever Yoslan Herrera is 32 years old, and when he pitched a scoreless inning in Sunday's 14-2 rout over the Mets at Angel Stadium, it was his first time on a Major League mound in six years.
"It was an incredible feeling," said Herrera, called up alongside Jose Alvarez from Triple-A Salt Lake when Dane De La Rosa and Matt Shoemaker were optioned. "It's a credit to the work I did all those years that I was away from the game."
Herrera was signed by the Pirates out of Cuba in March 2007, and did pretty well as mainly a starting pitcher in their organization, posting a 3.26 ERA in 234 2/3 innings, and even getting a five-start stint in the Majors in '08.
But Pittsburgh released him after the '09 season, and Herrera got a little down, and he lost his desire to play baseball, starting the 2010 season with a 6.08 ERA in six starts for the Twins' Triple-A affiliate.
And then Herrera just decided he was done.
"I just didn't want to play anymore," Herrera said. "But it was a mistake. Then, just sitting at home watching baseball games on TV, I started thinking, and I was like, 'I need to get back there. This is what I know how to do.'"
Herrera sat out the entire 2010 season before he started working out again, building himself back up and "starting from zero," as he said. He trained, threw some bullpen sessions, even got in some live batting practice from time to time. But teams weren't calling. And so Herrera spent all of the 2011 and '12 seasons merely working out from his Tampa, Fla., home, watching baseball continue to pass him by.
"It was frustrating," Herrera said. "Nobody had seen me pitch in games, so they weren't really interested."
Herrera finally hooked on in independent ball in 2013, working out of the bullpen for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League, and posting a 3.74 ERA with 11 saves in 59 appearances. He played winter ball in Mexico, got the attention of the Angels, signed a Minor League deal with no Spring Training invite in December, threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings for the Salt Lake Bees and finally got another crack at the big leagues.
"We needed him as more of a power arm," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Herrera, who features a curveball and 92-mph split-finger fastball.
"We only saw him a couple of times in spring, but he was really throwing well down there, and you saw his stuff really profiled out well [on Sunday]."