Andrew Heaney, a Dodger for 15 minutes, could earn fame with Angels

Top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney, 23, has eyes on an Angels rotation spot; Mike Scioscia says he has a shot

Andrew Heaney walked off a mound at the Angels' spring training complex, met briefly with pitching coach Mike Butcher and then beelined toward the batting cage and exchanged fist bumps with hitters Albert Pujols, David Freese, Erick Aybar and others.

Heaney, a 23-year-old left-hander, had just thrown a batting practice session and he wanted to thank the players.

"They probably don't want to be standing in there facing the prospect of getting hit or whatever," Heaney said. "They're just trying to see some pitches."

When the Angels begin playing spring training games Thursday, Manager Mike Scioscia and General Manager Jerry Dipoto will be taking a long look at Heaney, who is a candidate to join a rotation that includes Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and, when he is all the way back from a knee injury, Garrett Richards.

Left-hander Hector Santiago and right-hander Nick Tropeano also are competing for a spot.

"We think he's ready for the challenge of the major leagues," Scioscia said of Heaney, noting that for young prospects making a team out of spring training "is sometimes the toughest bridge for a player to cross."

Heaney, who throws a low-90s fastball, a changeup and a slider, was already regarded as one of baseball's top left-handed pitching prospects before his profile became more pronounced in the immediate aftermath of two whirlwind December transactions that brought him to the Angels.

First, the Miami Marlins sent Heaney to the Dodgers as part of a trade for second baseman Dee Gordon and pitcher Dan Haren. Minutes later, the Dodgers sent Heaney to the Angels for second baseman Howie Kendrick.

Sandwiched between Twitter posts expressing appreciation to the Marlins and his excitement about joining the Angels, Heaney jokingly wrote: "Well, @Dodgers we had a good run! Great to be a part of such a storied franchise. #thanksforthememories"

Heaney briefly, and somewhat uncomfortably, became a minor social-media sensation.

"I'm not a Twitter comedian," he said this week. "I'm not going to be tweeting out jokes every day."

Instead, he is focused on starting the season with the Angels.

Heaney, 6 feet 2 and 185 pounds, played at Oklahoma State and was selected ninth overall by the Marlins in the 2012 amateur draft. Over the next two years he compiled a 19-11 record and 2.77 earned-run average at five minor league stops.

He began last season in double A, moved to triple A and finished in the major leagues. He started five of the seven big league games he appeared in and was 0-3 with a 5.83 ERA. He gave up six home runs in 29 1/3 innings.

"I just wasn't pitching well," he said of his first stint in the majors. "I was also pitching at the highest level I had pitched at all year, too, so I think that factored in."

Heaney arrived at spring training after an off-season of hard work, but one that also featured some long-overdue rest.

Since his sophomore year in college, Heaney never took more than a week off from working out. After the 2014 season, he took nearly a month.

"For me," he said, "that's a long time to not do anything."

Heaney said he felt rejuvenated when he returned. He expects that an off-season conditioning program and the experience gained last season will result in better stamina, especially in the season's final months.

Catcher Chris Iannetta said Heaney's fastball "plays a little harder" and "has more life" than what the radar gun reads. "He's got a good changeup and he's working on a slider that is in the process of getting better," Iannetta said.

Heaney is looking forward to the start of the Cactus League season and showing that he is worthy of a spot in the rotation.

"I'm not making the decision," he said, "but hopefully I can make it an easier one."

Line drives

The December trade that sent reliever Kevin Jepsen to the Tampa Bay Rays for outfielder Matt Joyce created an opportunity for another pitcher to win the seventh-inning role. Mike Morin, who compiled a 2.90 ERA in 59 innings as a rookie in 2014, is among the candidates. "I want to pitch meaningful innings," said Morin, 23, "So if that means going out in the fifth inning and that's where the big out of the game is, I will be completely happy with that. But at the same time, there's an opening in the seventh inning and that's where I want to be." . . . Rain forced the Angels to cancel most on-field drills Monday. . . . Players attended a mandatory 90-minute presentation on domestic violence that was put on by Major League Baseball.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

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