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Heston trying to rekindle 2015 no-hitter form

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- When the Mariners traded for Chris Heston, they hoped they were acquiring the 2015 version of the young right-hander. So far, so good, as Heston remained unscored on this spring with three shutout innings against the Cubs in Friday's 11-10 win at Peoria Stadium.

Heston went 12-11 with a 3.95 ERA and threw a no-hitter for the Giants as a rookie two years ago, but he became available after struggling through an injury-plagued 2016 spent mostly in Triple-A and on the disabled list.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- When the Mariners traded for Chris Heston, they hoped they were acquiring the 2015 version of the young right-hander. So far, so good, as Heston remained unscored on this spring with three shutout innings against the Cubs in Friday's 11-10 win at Peoria Stadium.

Heston went 12-11 with a 3.95 ERA and threw a no-hitter for the Giants as a rookie two years ago, but he became available after struggling through an injury-plagued 2016 spent mostly in Triple-A and on the disabled list.

But the 28-year-old from Florida says he feels back on track this spring, and his results support that as he has allowed just four hits with no runs, no walks and three strikeouts over seven innings in his first three Cactus League outings.

Heston relies heavily on a sinker, which he struggled with last spring. He wound up starting the year in the bullpen and never really got on track.

"I was getting close. Last year right before I got hurt, I was getting on a little roll there, but I tore my oblique and that sidelined me for the rest of the season," Heston said. "I was getting close, but this is definitely the best I've felt since ['15]."

Video: CHC@SEA: Heston talks about learning from Tim Hudson

Heston doesn't have a big fastball, but he finds success when he keeps the ball down and induces ground balls, which he did very well against a Cubs lineup minus most of its stars.

"That was the thing that was fighting against me [last year]," Hester said. "My sinker was up in the zone. To be able to get that pitch down and get the ground balls early in counts, that's kind of my whole game plan. So to get that back rolling again is kind of nice."

Heston has a chance to get into a nice rhythm in the rotation with Seattle sending three starters to the World Baseball Classic. He'll start again on Wednesday against the Dodgers before the troops start returning. He has been around long enough to know his odds are long to crack the Major League rotation out of camp, but he's worried more about his own performance.

"You just have to go out there and pitch," Heston said. "If you try to focus on too many of the outside factors, it will kind of show out there. So for me, it's just going out there, attacking the zone and see where the pieces fall."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Seattle Mariners, Chris Heston