Heredia A Big Signing For Pirates

Righthander puts Pittsburgh back in international market





PITTSBURGH—The Pirates once were pioneers in Latin America under former superscout Howie Haak, but they had become thoroughly non-competitive in the region until recent years.

Their climb back into relevance culminated with the Aug. 19 signing of elite Mexican righthander Luis Heredia, 16, to a franchise-record $2.6 million bonus.

"It's a great day for the Pittsburgh Pirates to add a player and a person like Luis," Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo said. "We consider him to be the best arm in Latin America."

The previous high for the Pirates in the international amateur market was $400,000 for Venezuelan outfielder Exicardo Cayones in July 2008.

Many major league teams had pursued Heredia, notably the Yankees, but the Pirates long ago established a relationship with the player, his family and the Veracruz club officials who owned Heredia's rights. Under Mexican rules, Veracruz keeps three-quarters of the bonus.

Heredia, 6-foot-6, 185 pounds, is considered by some scouts to be his country's best pitching prospect in years. He turned 16 on Aug. 10, but the Mexican League sought a delay on offers for Heredia until after the majors' deadline to sign drafted players passed.

Heredia's strongest trait is his velocity for his age—he sat at 92-93 mph with his fastball during an Aug. 12 game in Mazatlan—as well as four other pitches and uncommon coordination for someone who sprouted so tall at a young age.

"When you look at Luis pitch, you don't see someone you think is tall," said Jesus Valdez, the Pirates' Mexican scouting supervisor. "Everything moves very easily."

TREASURE TROVE

• Outfielder Andrew Lambo, acquired from the Dodgers in the Octavio Dotel trade at the deadline, was off to a .346/.443/.462 start for Double-A Altoona before running into a wall Aug. 15 and spraining his shoulder. Lambo, 21, hoped to return to action quickly, but the Pirates said the injury could hamper him the rest of the season.

• No starter in the minors had performed better in July and August than lefthander Jeff Locke, a 22-year-old who was 2-1, 3.07 in seven starts since being promoted to Altoona. For the season, Locke was 11-4, 3.39, with 123 strikeouts and 22 walks.