When Miami assigned Andrew Heaney back to Double-A Jacksonville to start 2014, it was with the intent that the left-hander improve certain periphery pitching skills. Chief among those was his ability to learn and attack hitters' tendencies.
Against Chattanooga on Tuesday, Heaney scored well in the read-and-react category.
The hurler took advantage of the Lookouts' aggressive nature and the 45-degree game-time temperature, allowing just one hit over six innings in a 4-0 Suns' victory.
Miami's top prospect struck out five and extended his scoreless streak to 12 frames in the Southern League contest. He allowed just one walk and retired the final 11 batters he faced.
As Marlins' director of player development Brian Chattin told MiLB.com before the season, Heaney was assigned to Jacksonville to sharpen "the finer parts of pitching," like holding runners, sequencing and scouting hitters.
Heaney's reads were sharp Tuesday. The hurler picked up early that Chattanooga was trying to drive balls to the middle and pull side. He also noticed a lot of hitters focusing on the inner half of the plate, trying to keep hands in tight as the cold weather prevented them from maximizing their bat speed.
"I was trying to stay away with my fastball," the southpaw said. "You could tell they, just on a cold night, they couldn't get their hands going on balls inside. When they tried to cheat to that, then the fastballs away, they got them all off the end of the bat."
One thing Heaney did better Tuesday than in his first two starts was induce weak ground-ball contact. The hurler got nine groundouts, something he credited to working his fastball to both sides of the plate, then following that with his offspeed offerings.
"If I was trying to get early contact, I was throwing the changeup," he said. "Then to put somebody away, it was a fastball in or the slider."
Heaney said he's gotten an extra boost this year from working with the Marlins' No. 9 prospect, catcher J.T. Realmuto. The backstop played in 106 contests with Jacksonville in 2013, and Heaney raved about Realmuto's ability to read hitters and communicate what he knows.
"As far as hitters' tendencies, I'm trying to be better about that," he said. "[Realmuto] is really good about that. That helps out a lot. He has a plan for everyone who comes up. I don't shake him off too often.
"He played in this league last year, so he knows a lot of the hitters. He's just really good at that. He knows how I like to pitch. He uses what he knows with my strengths and what I like to do."
Realmuto also had a big day at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a double, an RBI and a run.
Heaney allowed a single and a walk over the first two innings, but kept Chattanooga to one baserunner over his final four frames.
Casio Grider was the lone man to reach in the final four frames, and he got to first chasing a wild pitch for strike three. Grider was one of three Lookouts to strike out against Heaney in the third. The left-hander had a shot at a four-strikeout frame after Grider reached, but retired Brian Cavazos-Galvez on a flyout to right.
"I thought, 'Man, it's not very often I throw a ball past J.T. It must have been a [lousy] pitch," Heaney said. "When you get a strikeout and the guy reaches first, obviously it gets in your head a bit. Then I realized I had struck out two other guys. I wouldn't say I was extra-motivated to strike out the next guy, but it would've been cool."
After Grider reached, Heaney retired the final 11 batters he faced.
Heaney also dropped down a sacrifice bunt that resulted in a run when Chattanooga hurler Hector Nelo committed a throwing error in the top of the sixth.