Pirates Notebook: Heredia heading to Pirate City

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Once he obtains his visa, Luis Heredia will head to Pirate City for such an extended stay, he could conceivably pitch in the Gulf Coast League there next summer -- at age 16 and, come August, age 17.

Not that the Pirates plan to keep him captive the entire time in their Bradenton, Fla., facility, but their $2.6 million Mexican right-hander may benefit from the Instructional League, bullpen sessions, simulated games and extended exposure to coaching and counseling there this fall, general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday.

It's a similar plan followed by Zack Von Rosenberg and the bonus-baby, high school pitchers signed in the 2009 draft. It's the same plan in place for the other high-priced, right-handed pitching talent signed this past week: Jameson Taillon, the $6.5 million second-overall selection, and Stetson Allie, the $2.25 million second-rounder.

However, Huntington cautioned, whatever the Pirates might map out initially could change depending upon the kid's input, comfort and progress.

"Heredia's going to get there just as soon as we can get him to Florida from a visa standpoint," Huntington said. From there, there is no age prohibition next spring. "He can go anywhere we want him to go. Even the Gulf Coast League would be pretty advanced for him. The Dominican Summer League, he'd be young for[, too]. So it's where we think best suits him."

Keystone home

Taillon and Allie, who originally thought he was headed to Class A West Virginia to observe, are spending the next fortnight or so with short-season State College before heading to Pirate City.

"That group that's there now, they're in that similar age group and similar experience," Huntington said of the State College kids of '09: Von Rosenberg, Zack Dodson, Trent Stevenson, Brooks Pounders and Zac Fuesser. "[Management] thought it would be good to get them together so they can share what they've learned this year ... staying in extended [spring], coming out this summer and having to compete against older players maybe up a level."

Huntington also said Taillon will break the recent string of first-round picks invited to big league camp. Instead, Taillon and Allie will report next February for early minor league spring training at Pirate City, where the prospects take the field after the Pirates complete their sessions by midday.

"All minor league projected starting pitchers and some of our best prospects get down there almost as early as major league spring training starts, maybe a week, 10 days later. They get a lot more attention and reps in that environment than getting token innings in major league spring training."

Walker slump

Neil Walker's batting average has dipped to its lowest point since mid-July and represents the second-worst stretch of his impressive rookie season. He is hitting the ball hard, just right at the opposition.

"I'm still hitting the barrel on the baseball, that's a positive," Walker said of this 4-for-22 drought (.181) with just one RBI, in the seven games of this homestand. "Sometimes you feel better hitting the ball hard than getting over a couple of flare singles. Your goal is to hit the ball hard every time up. You can't get down if you hit four balls hard and go 0 for 4."

He went 0 for 3 Sunday. No time to panic, either.

Kidded Walker, "I don't take my bats to church and throw holy water on them."

Buried treasure

• Huntington said the idea of a six-man starting rotation in September remains in the discussion stages, but it eventually could exclude various starters reaching an undisclosed innings threshold: Jeff Karstens (a career-high 108 last year, 115 already this year); James McDonald (132 last year in majors and minors, 99 this year); or even Paul Maholm (194 last year, 146 this year) and Sunday's starter Zach Duke (213 last year, 127 this year).

Jose Tabata walked around the clubhouse in a Pirates stocking cap beforehand. Not because of the temperature, but because he had a bad cold.

• The movie "Abduction" filmed in the press box amid the game, using color commentator Steve Blass.

• Keeping in the motion-picture theme, documentarian Ken Burns -- about to unveil a "10th inning" to his baseball series -- threw out the ceremonial first pitch and likewise encamped in the press box awhile.


Chuck Finder: cfinder@post-gazette.com . Find more at PBC Blog .


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