Monday, August 21, 2006

Heilman is back!

Zachary Braziller at NY Sports Day writes about Aaron Heilman and the comeback he is making:

Has Duaner Sanchez’s separated shoulder contributed to the reemergence of Aaron Heilman as a dominant and reliable set-up man or was an up-turn in the right-hander’s inconsistent season the law of averages just asserting themselves?

The Mets say there is no correlation, but the numbers certainly tell a different story. Since Sanchez separated his shoulder July 30, the result of an ill-fated late-night Taxicab ride in Miami, FL, Heilman, reinserted as the premier 8th-inning bridge to closer Billy Wagner, has allowed just three earned runs in 11 2/3 innings, striking out 13 and yielding just five hits.

Heilman, 27, says he’s comfortable again, the rhythm back in his delivery. "I feel like I’m more in sync," he said. "I feel a lot more fluid. I’m able to throw the ball where I want and not try to guide it there."

Pitching coach Rick Petersen denies any connection between Sanchez’s injury and Heilman returning to his ’05 form – when he registered one of the stingiest ERA’s of any relief pitcher after the All-Star break – or the league’s making any adjustments.

Petersen prefers to point to Heilman’s rededication and preparation. Last year, during Heilman’s coming out party as a Major Leaguer, he took part in a series of drills that maintained mechanics, command, velocity and movement. But he got away from those pre-game rituals during the first half of the season. Then, around the All-Star break, Heilman had a chat with Petersen.

"We got to a point," the pitching coach recalled, "where we said ‘let’s get back into it. Here’s what you did last year and you were successful, here’s what you are doing this year and you’re struggling a little bit. Let’s get back to the same preparation that we went to last year.’ "

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