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Heston's prospects bright despite rocky spring

Giants' No. 8 prospect struggling early in first big league camp

Heston's prospects bright despite rocky spring

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Heston's first big league Spring Training hasn't necessarily been bright and sunny.

"It's a little rocky right now," admitted Heston, the club's No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com.

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That it is.

The young right-hander has appeared in two games, the last being Saturday's 9-5 split-squad loss to the Royals in which he served up two home runs and allowed four runs (three earned) in 1 2/3 innings. In 2 2/3 innings this spring, Heston has allowed five earned runs, good for a not-so-sparkling 16.88 ERA.

But just as stars like Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum use early Spring Training games to round into form, so too do Minor Leaguers like Heston.

"The ball's just up right now. Pushing the ball a little bit, rushing to the plate and things are just kind of moving fast right now," said Heston, who relies on a sinking fastball. "Step back, slow down and get back to that downhill plane and I think it will be all right."

There's a strong likelihood Heston continues to receive opportunities to find himself. Heston, who turns 25 in April, was the club's 12th-round pick in the 2009 Draft and has impressed while progressively improving at every Minor League level.

Heston has worked close to 150 innings in each of the past three years, with last season possibly being his best yet in professional ball. He posted bests in ERA (2.24), WHIP (1.103), strikeouts (135) and allowed only two homers in 148 2/3 innings at Double-A Richmond while going 9-8 in 25 starts.

"It went well there," Heston said. "A great opportunity with the coaching staff and it was a lot of fun."

Although Heston doesn't possess the stuff of MLB.com's No. 1 overall Giants prospect Kyle Crick or others big-time prospects, he projects as a consistent starter for the middle to back of the rotation. His key pitch, that sinking fastball which he's currently searching for, is complemented with an above-average curveball and changeup.

With only 185 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, Heston also needs to continue to add bulk, but the Giants like what he brings to the mound.

"This guy, he's going make you put the ball in play," Giants director of player development Fred Stanley told MLB.com last month. "He's the kind of guy that you can look back in the sixth inning and he's thrown 60 pitches. His whole thing, if he gets a little stronger, he's going to be a guy who takes the ball every fifth day."

That excitement is organizational-wide.

Consider a bullpen session Heston threw early in camp where a handful of Giants officials were on hand watching the action. When Heston took the mound, others joined the onlookers, including general manager Brian Sabean and skipper Bruce Bochy.

"He commands the ball well and has good sink on it," Bochy said. "I know it's just [throwing in the] bullpen, but this is his first big league camp."

A first Major League camp that has been quite the experience, which is usually the case for young Giants pitchers.

"I mean, the starting five alone is Cy Young [Awards] and All-Stars all up and down," Heston said. "Just the opportunity to be around those guys and talk to those guys is a big advantage."

Advice from the likes of Cain, Lincecum and others is the biggest thing Heston is looking to take from camp, as he hopes to apply it this season, whether he repeats Double-A to open the season or starts at Triple-A Fresno.

"I think you just want to go out there and do well," Heston said when asked if he has any goals for the upcoming season. "Just go out there and try to keep your team in the ballgame every game. As long as you do that, I think all the other stuff will kind of take care of itself throughout the season."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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