Heidenreich looking to bounce back

Astros righty using Arizona Fall League to rediscover his form

Matt Heidenreich has not allowed a run in his first two AFL starts. (Shawn E. Davis/MiLB.com)

By Ashley Marshall / MiLB.com | October 16, 2013 3:39 PM

Expectations were high for Astros right-hander Matt Heidenreich entering 2013. He won 12 games across two levels the previous year and he was embarking on his first full season with a new organization following a midseason trade from the White Sox.

Then things went awry. His command -- usually one of his strengths -- deserted him, his strikeout rate plummeted and he started serving up home runs at a rate he had never experienced before.

After struggling for six months, the 22-year-old is hoping to rediscover the form that made him a Carolina League All-Star. To that end, the former fourth-round Draft pick allowed one hit over three scoreless innings as host Peoria fell to Mesa, 3-1, in Arizona Fall League action Wednesday.

Heidenreich issued three walks and struck out four batters in his second scoreless outing. In his AFL debut last Wednesday, he fired three hitless frames with two strikeouts and two walks.

Against the Solar Sox, he set down the side in the first inning and used consecutive strikeouts to strand runners on first and second base in the next frame. In the third, he worked around a leadoff single to Wes Darvill and a two-out free pass to Devon Travis by fanning Kris Bryant with his 61st and final pitch of the afternoon.

The right-hander, acquired from Chicago in the deal that sent Brett Myers to the South Siders in 2012, had all four of his pitches on display -- high-80s fastball, big breaking curveball, mid-to-high 70s changeup and tight slider.

"He was good," Mesa's Addison Russell told MLB.com. "He had some good off-speed stuff that kept us off balance in the first three innings."

Heidenreich struggled throughout 2013, posting a 7.81 ERA, primarily in the Double-A Texas League with Corpus Christi.

A starter his entire career, he moved to the bullpen in early May after just four starts and eight appearances with the Hooks. He piggybacked over that period of time with right-hander Ruben Alaniz.

Heidenreich made one more start over the next 10 weeks, and he logged only seven starts and 54 2/3 innings, both career lows outside of his rookie year in '09.

On Wednesday, Mesa right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (Nationals) plated two runs and starting pitcher Tommy Collier (Tigers) allowed a run on four hits while striking out three batters over three innings. A's lefty-hander Jeff Urlaub (1-0) got the win in relief, working two scoreless innings.

Addison Russell -- the A's top prospect -- singled, stole a base and scored a run in the three-run sixth for the Solar Sox.

"It's awesome. We're stacked," Russell told MLB.com. "Everyone in the Fall League has a stacked team. I didn't really know what to expect coming out to the league. It's just a laid-back, relaxed environment. The coaches let us go up there and do our thing."

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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