In an expected move, San Francisco right-handed starter Matt Cain was placed on the 15-day disabled list. The Giants, who originally tabbed Cain to start against Arizona in the finale of the season-opening three-game series, will instead call up 26-year-old right-hander Chris Heston to start in Cain’s place.
Heston, who performed well during Cactus League play, was assigned to San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento. He finished spring with a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings of work while recording 10 strikeouts to just one walk.
This will not be Heston’s first start at the MLB level as he started the final game of the 2014 regular season against the San Diego Padres, a 9-3 Giants victory. During the start, Heston worked four innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on six hits while walking two and striking out two.
Heston made two other appearances out of the bullpen for San Francisco in 2014. He debuted against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 13, 2014, striking out two and walking one in a scoreless inning of work.
He made his second professional appearance 11 days later, again against the Dodgers. This time, Heston worked just a third of an inning. He did not allow a run or a hit.
So what should Giant fans expect from Heston?
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander is not overpowering on the mound, working with a sinking-fastball that averaged 89.7 MPH during 2014, according to www.fangraphs.com. Heston used his fastball 59.2 percent of the time last year. When on, Heston will induce a lot of ground balls, so the San Francisco infield will need to be ready. Since his fastball is not overpowering, Heston will need to be able to locate the pitch to all four quadrants of the strike zone during his start against the Diamondbacks.
Along with his sinking-fastball, Heston also displays a slider, curveball and changeup in his repertoire. He uses the slider and curveball each 17.5 percent of the time, while the changeup is usually just an afterthought at 5.8 percent usage. Both breaking balls are average offerings, with the slider averaging 77.1 MPH during 2014 and the curveball averaging 75.6 MPH. Heston will need to locate both pitches within the strike zone while also encouraging hitters to chase.
The Giants should be pleased if Heston can provide six innings of work as he averaged 6.2 innings while making 28 starts for Triple-A Fresno last year. San Francisco is hoping that adding 25 pounds to his frame during the offseason will allow Heston to be stronger this year.
This may be just a one-start call-up for Heston, depending on the outcome and right-hander Jake Peavy, who was scratched from his start Tuesday against the Diamondbacks with back stiffness. Ryan Vogelsong took Peavy’s place in the rotation against Arizona.
If Peavy’s back continues to act up and Vogelsong takes his place in the rotation, then Heston could be an option to pitch for Cain’s next scheduled outing, which would be the Giants’ home opener on Monday, April 13 against Colorado.
Until then, it is up to Heston to leave a good impression on the Giants with a strong performance.