The 28-year-old looked sharp through three innings in his season debut against the White Sox on Friday. Heaney retired the first seven batters faced before things fell apart in the fourth inning.
A grand slam to Jose Abreu did most of the damage, and overall Heaney ended his night allowing seven earned runs on five hits while striking out four and walking two.
Heaney believed his struggles came when he went away from his fastball. He’d been commanding it well that night, but went to his off-speed pitches when he ran into trouble. His changeup was a badly missed meatball to Abreu.
The Halos are off to their best start in over a decade with a 5-2 record. Is it possible another seven-run, three inning performance would knock Heaney out of the rotation?
Angels: Andrew Heaney is facing the biggest start of his career.
I wouldn’t say it’s certain, but I’d think it has to be considered. Injuries which include a comeback from Tommy John surgery have played a part, but Heaney carries a 4.57 ERA over 175 innings since the 2018 season. That’s not what the Angels were hoping for when they traded for the former ninth overall pick.
Heaney also needs to turn around his struggles for his long-term security. He’s playing in a contract in 2022 and he’s at the point in his career where teams would be willing to pay significantly for a pitcher at his age. If he doesn’t turn it around, he could be fighting for a roster spot elsewhere.
Heaney and the Angels agreed to a $6.75 million salary for this season in his final year of arbitration. If he’s pulled as a starter, general manager Perry Minasian would need to determine if the team is better moving him to the bullpen or designating him for assignment.
One option to replace Heaney could be the team’s No.4 prospect Chris Rodriguez. The right-hander has been nothing short of electric as a long-reliever so far this season. However, his lack of experience and injury history means he probably needs a few more bullpen outings before the team is comfortable committing to him as a starter.
The other options are Jaime Barria and Patrick Sandoval. Both have experience as starting pitchers last season but it’s uncertain whether or not the Halos will consider them in future plans. Barria and Sandoval were optioned to the team’s alternate site at the end of spring training.
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If the Angels are content, Heaney’s job is safe regardless of his outcomes in upcoming starts. The question comes down to how committed the Angels are to winning now.