About this time last year, right-hander Chris Heston was emerging as a revelation for the Giants’ starting rotation that was missing Jake Peavy and Matt Cain because of injuries.
The early part of 2016 has played out differently. The Giants have stayed behind Peavy and Cain despite their struggles. Heston began the season as the long man in the Giants’ bullpen but was optioned out after compiling a 10.80 ERA over four appearances.
Since then, the Giants have twice called up right-handed starters for Sacramento – Albert Suarez and, on Thursday afternoon, Clayton Blackburn. Heston, meanwhile, remains in Triple A, where he’s trying to regain the form that made him such an effective starter for stretches last season in San Francisco.
10.80 Chris Heston’s ERA in four appearances with the Giants before being sent to the River Cats
“I think I was battling a lot of stuff (earlier this season) mechanically and maybe a little mentally,” Heston said Thursday.
A sinkerballer who relies on generating ground balls, Heston said his arsenal “definitely wasn’t doing some of the stuff that it normally does. So it was good to get back here and figure those things out and get on top of it.”
Heston said he worked with River Cats pitching coach Dwight Bernard and Giants pitching guru Dick Tidrow on ironing out his mechanics: “Just kind of getting back to what got me here and keeping it as simple as possible.”
Bernard said they studied video of Heston from last year and found several things to address, including the point where Heston separates his hands in his delivery, an emphasis in his last bullpen session.
Heston, who is scheduled to start for the River Cats on Saturday in Memphis, has a 4.12 ERA over four outings but said: “I feel like I’m getting back to where I’m throwing the ball down in the zone and it’s sinking for me and stuff. I’m right where I want to be.”
After Heston was sent down in mid-April, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said they hoped a return to the normal routine of starting would benefit Heston, who’d seemed to struggle trying to adjust to the sporadic pitching schedule of a long reliever. Heston acknowledged the role was “different” but said “struggling with mechanical stuff and some other stuff” compounded the difficulty.
4.12 Chris Heston’s ERA in four outings with the River Cats
“There’s different things to be accounted for, but at the same time it’s tough when you’re battling yourself,” he said.
“Anytime you’re up there and called on to do something and it doesn’t work out, you feel like it’s a missed opportunity. But I think in the long run, it’ll be good for me to get back to the comfort zone of starting and be ready when (the Giants) may need some help.”
Susac update – Catcher Andrew Susac, who has played in just eight games this season with the River Cats because of injuries, was scheduled to report to the Giants’ facility in Arizona on Friday to begin a rehab assignment.
Susac, who is on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis, said he is scheduled to play in four games at extended spring training in Arizona and three more with High-A San Jose before rejoining the River Cats when they return from their trip.
“Everything feels good,” said Susac, who threw to bases for the first time Thursday and has been swinging a bat. “I feel right.”
It’s been a frustrating two months for Susac, who saw his bid for a roster spot with the Giants derailed in spring training by a wrist injury, then had his shoulder flare up last month. A healthier Susac spent the first half of last season as the backup to Buster Posey in San Francisco, batting .218 in 52 games, before being shut down with a wrist injury.
“I try not to feel sorry for myself, but it was a little rough patch,” Susac said of his spate of injuries. “Kind of just frustrating that I couldn’t do anything about it. (But) we’ve got time left, a lot of season left.”
New face – Pitching prospect Joan Gregorio made his Triple-A debut for the River Cats, starting Thursday’s 8-2 loss to the Reno Aces at Raley Field. Gregorio threw five innings, giving up three runs on five hits, walking one and striking out four.
Gregorio, 24, a 6-foot-7 right-hander from the Dominican Republic, threw a 92- to 94-mph fastball and showed a big slider. Gregorio was promoted from DoubleA after posting a 2.33 ERA in five starts for Richmond with 30 strikeouts in 27 innings.