Left-hander Andrew Heaney shows promise in first start with Angels

Andrew Heaney entered his first spring training with the Angels hoping to win the fifth rotation spot but wound up pitching his way to triple-A, going 1-2 with a 7.03 earned-run average in six exhibition games in which he allowed 19 runs and 29 hits, struck out 19 and walked 10 in 24 1/3 innings.

The 24-year-old left-hander's numbers weren't that much better at Salt Lake, where he was 6-2 with a 4.71 ERA in 14 starts and had a 7.81 ERA in his last five games before the Angels called him up to start Wednesday against the Houston Astros.

The numbers, Manager Mike Scioscia said, did not tell the whole story.

"There's a statistical part of the Pacific Coast League that you have to take into consideration," Scioscia said, alluding to the many hitter-friendly parks in the league, "so we obviously rely very heavily on what our coaches see.

"I think Andrew, from the reports we have, has executed pitches much better than his numbers show, and hopefully it will add up to a well-pitched game. ... We think he’s ready for the challenge of the major leagues. It's been brewing for a while. He's been knocking on our door, and he’s ready to take this opportunity."

Heaney, acquired from the Dodgers via the Miami Marlins for second baseman Howie Kendrick last December, certainly looked ready Wednesday, allowing one run and four hits in six innings, striking out five and walking one in the Angels' 2-1, 13-inning victory.

He didn’t get the win but showed that the adjustments he made with pitching coach Mike Butcher, roving pitching instructor Marcel Lachemann toward the end of spring training and the work he put in with triple-A pitching coach Erik Bennett this season have helped.

"This is the guy I know our scouting department and [General Manager] Jerry Dipoto hoped we’d see this spring,” Scioscia said. “He wasn’t quite where he needed to be, but he went to Salt Lake and worked hard.

He wasn't finishing his delivery and getting out front like he had been a couple years ago. They looked at video of when he was throwing the ball well. He’s much closer to that delivery that produces the stuff we’re seeing now, and that’s encouraging.”

Heaney, who went 0-3 with a 5.83 ERA in seven games for the Marlins last season, took the roster spot of outfielder Alfredo Marte, who was optioned to triple-A after Tuesday night, and the rotation spot of Jered Weaver, who went on the disabled list because of left-hip inflammation on Sunday.

Heaney will get at least one more start, Tuesday night against the New York Yankees, but with off days on July 2 and July 6, the Angels won’t need a fifth starter again until July 11. But Heaney could force his way into the picture with another strong performance Tuesday.

"I probably didn’t make the greatest impression in spring training, but I felt like I finished on a high note," Heaney said, referring  to the 5 1/3 no-hit innings he threw in an April 3 exhibition game against the Dodgers.

"I tried to take that to Salt Lake and pitch well. I had my ups and downs there, but now that I’m here, I just want to prove that I can stay."

Matt Shoemaker is 4-5 with a 5.20 ERA and has allowed more homers (15) in 13 starts this season than he did in all of 2014, when he went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and gave up 14 homers in 27 games, 20 of them starts.

The right-hander was originally scheduled to pitch Wednesday but had his start pushed to Friday to "hopefully refine a couple of things," Scioscia said. "He's trying to get his fastball in good spot."

And Weaver wasn’t exactly a Cy Young Award candidate when he went on the DL—the veteran right-hander is 4-8 with a 4.75 ERA with 16 homers allowed.

"Any time a young player gets an opportunity and performs well, it bodes well for him to continue to get opportunities," Scioscia said. "Our rotation isn't mapped out to the end of the year. There are some things that are fluid, and we’ll see how Andrew fits in."

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna

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