BRADENTON, Fla. — Standing at the back of the crowd watching the pitchers work out Tuesday at Pirate City was a broad-shouldered kid wearing gray Pirates sweats and a black cap.
At 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, the kid towered over the fans, tourists and retirees who gathered near the bullpens. If not for his baby-faced features and soft, shy voice, it would have been hard to tell Luis Heredia is just 16 years old.
Despite being among the youngest prospects in the Pirates' system, Heredia also is one of the most talented. Considered one of the top amateur pitchers ever in Mexico, the right-hander signed last summer for a $2.6 million bonus.
Last fall, Heredia pitched in Instructional Leagues in Florida and in the Dominican Republic. He will begin this season in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, an impressive start for someone his age.
"I am not nervous. I am ready," Heredia said.
Yesterday afternoon, Heredia threw long toss, effortlessly hurling the ball 120 feet or more with plenty of zip. On Thursday, when he throws a side session, Heredia will unleash his 93 mph fastball.
"At 16 years old, I was playing (youth league ball) and had no idea how to act away from my parents," catcher Tony Sanchez said. "For him to come out here, do what he does and act the way he does is amazing."
Heredia and Sanchez, the Pirates' top draft pick in 2009, roomed together at Instructional League.
"I showed up and he was already in bed and there was only a cot left for me," Sanchez said with a laugh. "So, the 16-year-old slept in the bed, and I was in the cot."
Pirates Spring Training 2011
Images from Pirates spring training in Bradenton, Florida.
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