Andrew Heaney had just thrown five no-hit innings, moved to 2-0 in the Arizona Fall League and lowered his ERA to a minuscule 1.82. Plenty of reason to be excited, right?
Not with the Glendale Desert Dogs. Glendale's young starters have made pitching performances like that seem standard.
"I guess it wasn't even anything that cool, really," said Heaney, the Marlins' No. 2 prospect. "It's cool when we're all rolling like that and pitching well."
Heaney followed up Jamie Walczak's five innings of no-hit ball on Thursday and Alex Meyer's one-hit, 5 2/3-inning outing Friday by only walking one and striking out four in Glendale's 3-2 win over Scottsdale on Saturday.
The 22-year-old left-hander, MLB.com's No. 48 overall prospect, attributed his strong outing Saturday to a "more consistent" slider. But he was also throwing his fastball for strikes early in the count, with 45 of his 66 pitches going for strikes, and utilizing his changeup.
"I didn't feel like that going into the game, and then once I got going and started getting my stuff going, I started kind of getting into a rhythm. When you start doing that, it feels good," Heaney said. "I wouldn't say it was the best stuff I've necessarily had, but I had a good rhythm going and I felt good with all three of my pitches."
Reliever Kevin Vance threw a perfect sixth inning before Elmer Reyes singled off Jarret Martin to break up the no-hitter. Reyes wound up scoring later that inning on a wild pitch, and Scottsdale put up another run in the ninth inning to pull within one. But Glendale had already built up enough of a lead to escape with a victory.
Second baseman Marcus Semien gave Glendale an early lead, driving home Brent Keys in the first on a double to left field. Right fielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez homered in the fourth to give the Desert Dogs a 2-0 lead, and Keys' RBI single later that inning drove home Danny Black to make it 3-0.
That was more than enough for Heaney, coming off a dominant season in the Marlins' system. Heaney, the ninth overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, went 5-2 with a 0.88 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings for Class A Advanced Jupiter before moving up to Double-A Jacksonville. All Heaney did there was put together a 4-1 record and 2.94 ERA in six starts.
He's carried that momentum into the Arizona Fall League. In five starts, he's struck out 21 and walked only seven over 24 2/3 innings. The Oklahoma State University product has allowed only 15 hits, holding opposing batters to a .172 average.
His main goal when he came out to Arizona was to feel more comfortable with his slider, to know he can use it as a swing-and-miss offering whenever he wants. Heaney is a three-pitch guy -- fastball, slider and changeup -- so he said it's important to have each one working as well as possible at all times.
"When I have my slider working, it helps a lot. I can throw a pitch out of the zone and feel like I can get a swing and miss and be comfortable throwing that in all counts. That was what was big for me today," Heaney said. "That was my second pitch, whereas in games before it kind of felt like I would go to the changeup first and my slider was my third-best pitch. Today it was my best, so that definitely helps."
Given all the success he's enjoyed this year, in the Minors and in Arizona, it's only natural to wonder whether Heaney could make a quick leap into the Marlins' Major League rotation come next year. Jose Fernandez made the jump without having thrown a pitch above Class A ball, and he immediately turned into one of the Majors' best pitchers.
Could Heaney be next?
"Yes, I think about it, but realistically I need to stay healthy all of Spring Training. I have to stay healthy and pitch well and then whatever happens, happens," he said. "But honestly, everybody thinks about it. They'd be lying to you if they said they didn't."