Everybody was swinging it in Double-A Altoona’s 13-3 win against New Britain on Tuesday, as the Curve pounded out 18 hits–five of which left the yard.
But the bigger news in Pirate Land was Cuban defector Yoslan Herrera, who pitched six no-hit innings and fanned seven on the way to his first career win in the States–and easily the best outing of the 26-year-old righthander’s career since he signed for $1.92 million in the offseason.
Herrera has gone through growing pains this year as he tries to not only adjust to the American game and way of life; he also hasn’t pitched competitively in three years. The righthander’s velocity has been way down from what it was in Cuba, as his fastball’s been sitting in the 83-85 mph range over the first 2 1/2 months at Altoona.
Herrera’s fastball was slightly higher Tuesday, sitting in the upper 80s and touching 90. But the best news was the way he commanded his heater against the Rock Cats en route to victory No. 1.
“A lot of people are quick to criticize, but this season is the first time he’s pitched in a long time,” Altoona manager Tim Leiper said. “It’s absolutely huge for him and you have to be excited for the guy. With the way he’s in the spotlight, it has to be a huge weight taken off.
“There’s just so much on his plate, it’s been crazy. His velocity needs to keep creeping back to where it was when he was pitching regularly and he has to throw more fastballs and keep commanding it well. But that was a huge sign.”
One big reason Herrera felt comfortable on the mound was the depthÂ his offensive support–the Curve blasted five homers; two by first baseman Steven Pearce.
Pearce started the season at high Class A Lynchburg, hitting .347/.412/.867 with 11 homers in just 75 at-bats. The 2005 eighth-round pick out of South Carolina hasn’t had the home run production he had early in the year as he adjusts to the new level, but he’s obviously settling in.
“He’s ready to hit every pitch as hard as he can,” Leiper said. “And he’s got a very short memory, so nothing really bothers him. He’s played a solid first base, he’s got a ton of walks . . . He’s just kind of this throwback kind of guy that came up here and had an immediate impact. Maybe not so much with the home runs early, but his presence. The guy has a presence about him.”
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