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Heyer power: Arizona ace has pitched like a first-round pick

Kurt Heyer

Kurt Heyer

Major league teams selected 75 right-handed pitchers before Arizona Wildcats’ junior ace Kurt Heyer was drafted near the bottom of the sixth round.

Everyone knows why Heyer didn’t get picked higher. He doesn’t have the fastball velocity that wows scouts and leads to projections of being a top-of-the rotation starter at the next level.

“I think it was a fair selection,” Heyer said of being taken 210th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Everybody is expecting to go higher, but I guess it just wasn’t my time in the early rounds. I’m just really happy I was able to be picked up by somebody. Not everybody gets this opportunity.”

In college, Heyer doesn’t take a backseat to many. He earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors, and Collegiate Baseball selected him as a second-team All-American. He is 12-2 with a 2.03 ERA and will start Friday when the Wildcats take on St. John’s in the first game of an NCAA Super Regional, beginning at noon at Hi Corbett Field.

Arizona had five players selected in the first nine rounds of the draft, and coach Andy Lopez, before Tuesday’s practice, congratulated everyone on that accomplishment and then told the team to forget all about it.

There is only time to think of one goal: Getting to the College World Series.

“Now, it’s time to move on and take care of business,” Heyer said.

Heyer has done that all season, throwing seven complete games in 16 starts, with a bulldog mentality that Lopez loves. Heyer has struck out 98 and walked only 22 in 128 2/3 innings, capable of throwing four pitches in any situation. He was a fastball/slider pitcher when he arrived as a freshman.

“I came into the program with fastball location, and that has been huge for me,” Heyer said.

“The change-up has developed quite nicely this season. The curveball, I added last fall because I wanted another pitch to add some deception. It’s definitely been a pitch that has gotten me out of some tough situations when I didn’t have my slider.

“I definitely take pride in being able to control each pitch.”

Only three Arizona pitchers have won more games than Heyer in a season during the Pac-10/12 era — Scott Erickson (18 in 1989), Gil Heredia (16, 1986) and Joe Magrane (13, 1985). All three went on to long major league careers.

As for Heyer, time will tell. He might have to transition to the bullpen in the pros.

“I just have to prove the same thing I have always been doing — throw strikes and give my team a chance to win every time,” he said. “I don’t think the mentality changes.”

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