Here's why Heaney threw Betts a middle-middle fastball

March 2nd, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- In his first Cactus League start as a Ranger on Wednesday, immediately found himself in a 2-0 count against former teammate Mookie Betts.

Heaney then tossed a middle-middle fastball, hoping for an easy strike. But that’s never safe against a hitter like Betts, who launched it deep over the left-center-field wall at Surprise Stadium.

“I was like, ‘I really just want to see a strike,’” Heaney said. “I don't want to start my first game of Spring Training going 3-0 on a guy or nibbling. So I was like, ‘I'm just gonna kind of throw it at him down the middle.’ And he hit it out. It's not surprising. I'm not all that mad about it. I'm a little stubborn in that way. Just like I wanted to see one in there. It happens. I'm not going to worry about it.”

Heaney added that, in the regular season, he probably wouldn’t have thrown that pitch in that situation.

In the 4-2 rain-shortened loss to the Dodgers, Heaney -- who signed a two-year, $25 million deal with Texas this offseason -- pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing three hits, two walks and two earned runs, both of which came on solo homers. He also struck out two.

Heaney said he felt great in his bullpen pregame, but things just got away from him on the mound once the game started.

“Physically, I felt good, mechanics felt pretty good," said Heaney. "The first inning was all right, and then the second inning, I just sort of lost it a little bit. I was trying to mix in more changeups and it was not carrying up in the zone very well. So that kind of got me behind in counts. I’m a little disappointed in that, because I definitely pride myself on attacking the strike zone and I’m living with the results. I was a little bit frustrated with falling behind, but at the same time, it’s the first Spring Training start, I feel good.”

The 31-year-old southpaw felt optimistic about his outing, even if the numbers didn’t exactly back that up.

Heaney joked that he’s probably “one of the worst Spring Training pitchers out there,” but the process and how he feels out on the mound matters more than the results, especially when it’s so early in camp.

“To some extent, I would rather be giving up hits than going [2-0] or [3-0] on a guy,” Heaney said. “I really don't want to say I don't care, because I do care. I'd rather get people out, that's the name of the game, but I'm going to take more pride in Spring Training in attacking guys. I didn't do that and that's what bothers me. Like, not getting out of innings, getting too long … that's what bothers me more about it.”

Manager Bruce Bochy felt similarly about Heaney’s outing, noting that the early days of camp are about staying healthy and getting your work in.

Heaney, like much of the Rangers’ rotation, is coming off an injury-riddled 2022, when he made multiple trips to the injured list with left shoulder problems. Despite the injuries, Heaney dominated when healthy, finishing with personal bests in ERA (3.10), WHIP (1.09), K/9 (13.6) and K/BB ratio (5.79) for the Dodgers.

“Overall, I thought Heaney threw the ball pretty good,” Bochy said. “I know he made a couple of mistakes, got behind and they went after him, but it was a good first outing for him. I thought he used his offspeed pitches well, which was the plan. I'm just glad we got our work in today [before the rain].”