Hebert Continues To Excel

TAMPA, FL - Left-hander Chaz Hebert had a breakout season of sorts last season when he posted a combined 2.76 ERA over two minor league levels. He's proving that last year was no fluke too as he has posted even better numbers so far in 2015. However, it's the way he's finishing off this season in particular that has really turned heads inside the organization.

The Cajun out of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, pitched a complete game shutout [a scheduled seven inning affair] with nine strikeouts and no walks in his previous outing against the Lakeland Flying Tigers, and then followed it up six more innings of three-hit, one-run baseball in his last outing to continue what has been a stellar year for him.

In fact, he has allowed a mere six earned run in his last ten outings [five of them are starts] for the high-A Tampa Yankees. In doing so he lowered his ERA on the season to 2.73 across three different levels of minor league ball and put himself among the Florida State League ERA leaders.

He has spent this year bouncing back and forth from the starting rotation to the bullpen, and he’s been very successful in both capacities. But after making a spot start for the Yankees Triple-A Scranton team on July 30th, pitching very well up there, he seems destined to stick in the starting rotation.

He’s allowed only two earned runs over his last four outings since his emergency Scranton start which consists of 21.1 innings pitched, impressing plenty of people along the way.

“Hebert has a bright future," Tampa manager Dave Bialas said. "Everybody is looking for good left-handed pitching whether that’s starting or out of the bullpen."

"He does so many things right from mixing in all his pitches, to consistently throwing strikes, he has a great pick off move [to] first, and holds the runner extremely well.”

And that sums up Hebert in a nutshell. He doesn't have the overpowering fastball nor does he have the wicked moving plus secondary pitches that wow scouts. In fact, Bialas does bring up one of Hebert’s best strengths which is his ability to mix in all of his pitches throughout the game and throw them all for strikes consistently.

Working with a four-seam fastball that routinely sits in the low 90’s he can’t just simply try to blow his fastball by hitters. Instead he uses all his pitches to keep hitters off-balance and to deceive them with what’s coming next.

His fastball, cutter, and changeup are all quality pitches that work well for him and he’s starting to develop a better curveball too. His confidence right now is at an all-time high after coming back from his lone start for Triple A Scranton where he pitched five innings of one-run ball, and then throwing the complete game shutout two games later.

“That start in Triple-A showed me that my pitches were good enough to compete up there and it showed me that I didn’t have to throw my pitches even harder or have to drastically improve my pitches.” Herbert said. “Though there is always room for improvement, I know what I have now is good and I just need to take advantage of it.”

The minor leagues are all about trial and error, experimenting and developing, and perhaps Hebert personifies that more than most. He certainly has gotten stronger over the years and obviously wiser, but for him it's been more about finding out what works for him.

“As for my pitches, coming into this season I did try to incorporate more two-seamers but after experimenting with the cutter I found out that having the four-seamer and the cutter is working very well for me, more so than the two-seamer did," Hebert acknowledged. "I haven’t thrown a two-seamer since the beginning of the season.

“I struggled a bit at the beginning of the season with the curveball and each game I was trying to throw it with a different grip, trying different things. I can throw it for a strike here and there but now it’s just getting more consistent with the pitch and sticking with one grip.”

Besides improving his curveball there are some other things he wants to improve on, like trying to add a few more ticks on to his velocity. Right now his four-seam velocity sits mostly between 89-91 mph and he would like to try to get that up a bit more. Besides adding a little more power, however, he and his managers just want to see him keep on doing what he’s been doing.

Having stuff is one thing, and Hebert has plenty of it, but it's the actual pitch-ability one possesses that is often one of the least talked about aspects. Tampa pitching coach Tommy Phelps says it's one of the things that impresses him the most about Hebert, his pitching IQ, which he thinks is off-the-charts good and a major factor in why Hebert has been able to break out here the past two seasons.

“He knows how to throw to both sides of the plate, he can crowd right-handers inside, backdoor some pitches, and knows when to throw harder with his pitches.” Phelps said. “He uses his curveball early in the counts for strikes and as a show pitch. Sometimes he’ll slowdown or speed up his pitches to throw hitters off. He knows how to pitch."

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