Bucs' Heredia Maturing Quickly





PITTSBURGH — A 16-year-old in the Gulf Coast League? That is not unprecedented, but it will be the first for the Pirates in recent memory if, as management expects, Mexican righthander Luis Heredia starts his professional career in the Rookie-level GCL this summer.

Heredia, signed last year to a $2.6 million bonus that was a franchise record for an international amateur, impressed management with his poise, on and off the mound, in the fall instructional league. Farm director Kyle Stark has not completed all of his assignments for the coming year, but his current view is that Heredia will spend all or some of the summer in the GCL.

"Luis showed physical abilities that indicated he certainly belonged on the field with our other prospects and carried himself very well," Stark said. "He's still a kid, but we saw a young man who cared about his career, wants to be good and is willing to do what it takes to get there. Obviously, we need to evaluate whether he can do this enough to start his career in Florida in the GCL, and that determination will be made this spring."

Heredia has a history of facing older competition, including cameo appearances in exhibitions against professionals in the Mexican Pacific League, and he is unafraid of facing older players or the transition to the U.S.

The Pirates' usual preference with a Latin American prospect would be to send him to their new facility in the Dominican Republic, but Heredia is learning English, has some family in Florida and is mature beyond his years.

Heredia throws an effortless fastball at 92-93 mph, as well as four other pitches, but the immediate focus will be no different for him than any other prospect in Stark's system.

"The primary focus for Luis on the mound will be learning the world of professional baseball, developing some solid routines, and starting to solidify a delivery that allows him to consistently command his fastball," Stark said. "The mental and personal will be most important at this point for Luis."

TREASURE TROVE

• Lefthander Rudy Owens has never pitched above Double-A, but team president Frank Coonelly said the Pirates are considering him for the major league rotation.
 
• The Pirates plan to keep Chase d'Arnaud, one of their top prospects, at shortstop even though he was moved to second base midway through last season.