BRISTOL - After a great start to the season, Bristol Blues starting pitcher Jason Hebner ran into some troubles.
Yet while he hasn’t appeared in a game since July 12, Hebner is still expected to have a role moving forward into the postseason, according to Blues manager Ronnie Palmer.
In 20 2/3 innings pitched overall this season, Hebner has 17 strikeouts and a 3.04 ERA.
But that ERA has risen steadily as the season has progressed. Over his first five appearances Hebner boasted a 1.35 ERA. In his last five, he’s allowed five earned runs on nine hits and six walks in 7 1/3 innings, for a 6.14 ERA in those games.
Hebner hasn’t been pleased with his midseason struggles.
“I’d say my performance hasn’t been quite as good as I would like,” Hebner said.
“Early in the season I felt pretty good. I obviously had a rough stretch towards the middle of the season, but I feel like I’ve recovered from that and learned some things. I feel like I’m throwing a lot better now and hope it continues towards the end of the season.”
His two-week rest period could eventually prove beneficial, though Palmer has already been pleased with Hebner so far.
“I think his fastball has had good life on it and he’s competed well each time on the mound for us,” Palmer said.
After beginning the season as a starter, his new role out of the bullpen in situational spots is something Hebner believes gives him a chance to help the team the most.
“I think out of the pen coming on with guys on base, especially left handed batters in the middle of the order, I can get those guys out,” Hebner said. “A lot of times I come in with guys on base, and that’s sort of the position I like to be in towards the end of the game.”
In deciding to play in the Futures League over the summer, a goal coming in for Hebner was to improve his fastball.
He was strong in four of his five outings for Fairfield University this past college season, but his four-seam fastball typically sat in the low 80s.
His goal is to get it into the mid-80s by the time the summer finishes.
Hebner has relied heavily in the past on his breaking ball, two-seam cutter and changeup as his out pitches.
“This summer I’ve been trying to get bigger, stronger and throw harder,” Hebner said. “I want to be more aggressive pitching in the zone and want to throw harder when I get back to school.”
Getting in everyday work with Bristol is one part to his summer routine. The second part is training at the Advanced Therapy and Performance clinic located in Stamford.
His routine is centered around strengthening his legs and core in order to improve the power he is generating behind his pitching motion.
A third change for Hebner is focusing more on nutrition, meal prepping and making sure he’s working out more often in order to add strength.
Overall, Hebner has been pleased with the experience over this summer with the Blues.
“It’s been a great season, I think,” Hebner said. “We’ve had some rough patches, but for the most part we’ve got a lot of guys playing well. Especially down in the bullpen, it’s a good group of guys to be around and it’s been fun. We’ve gotten some good work in.”