Herrera returned to Kane County at the start of the 2007 season and he played a bit of a different role for the Cougars. Herrera made 21 appearances for Kane County, 11 as a starting pitcher. In 88.1 innings, Herrera was 2-8 with a 4.89 ERA before being promoted to High-A Stockton in mid-August. Since arriving in Stockton, Herrera has returned to the bullpen. In four appearances, Herrera has allowed four runs in 6.2 innings (although three of those runs came in his latest outing on Tuesday in 0.2 of an inning).
We spoke to Herrera this weekend about the transition to Stockton, the pitches he is throwing and more...
OaklandClubhouse: How has the transition been from Kane County to Stockton?
OC: You spent almost two full years in the Midwest League. Was there a difference between this year and last year for you in Kane County?
JH: I think so. There was a maturity factor in getting ready for the next level. That's all they try to do down there is prepare you so that when you get up here, you are in a position to have success. You try to do your job as best as you can.
OC: You were starting some games and coming out of the bullpen for others. Is there a role that you prefer?
JH: I'm kind of happy wherever they put me. I think it opens the doors more for me because if there is a starting spot, I can take it, if there is a relief spot, I can take it, if they need someone in long relief, I can do that too. I'll pretty much take whatever role they want me to have.
OC: What pitches are you throwing at the moment?
JH: Pretty much just fastballs and a change-up and a slider. My slider is my pitch that I strike out batters on mostly.
OC: Has there been a pitch that has improved for you over the course of the year?
JH: I think the slider is coming out better than it was earlier in the year. I was struggling with it at the beginning of the season and it was my pitch that I had last year and it took me a little while to get it back to where it used to be. I think it is starting to build up a little bit as I go along.
OC: How does your mentality change when you are in the bullpen as opposed to how you prepare for a start?
JH: It's a little different. I think you just have to be alert more in the bullpen. You never know when you are going to get in. You've got to keep your head in the game the entire time. They might call you ahead of time and say that you are pitching this inning, or a pitcher might get in trouble and you might get the quick call to warm-up. Just being alert more than being a starter. As a starter, you know your role, so it is a little easier that way, but you still have to prepare yourself.
OC: Is there a difference between the hitters that you've noticed between the Midwest League and the California League?
JH: They are a lot more aggressive [in the California League] and they say that the ball flies out of the ballpark here. You've got to keep your pitches down a little more here. The hitters are a little bit better overall, too, so you've got to make your pitches. If there is a mistake, you might have to pay for it. Just seeing that, I see the difference from being in Kane County and being up here.