Heredia deal announced; Sanchez to AFL?


The Pirates have paid $2.6 million to buy the rights to 16-year-old pitcher Luis Heredia from Veracruz of the Mexican League.

That shatters the franchise’s international signing bonus record of $400,000, which went to Venezuelan outfielder Exicardo Cayones in 2008.

Baseball America ranked Heredia, a right-hander, the top international pitching prospect for 2010.

“Luis has a very natural feel to pitching with above-average movement on his ball,” director of international scouting Rene Gayo said. “It’s very rare to see a young man with this type of character, athletic ability and pitching potential.”

Heredia has not pitched in organized, pro league games in Mexico, but has stayed on a routine. This month, he pitched in the Japan Boys Tournament in Mazatlan, Mexico, and racked up eight strikeouts in five innings with a 94 mph fastball.

“It was the first time he’d faced (players in) his age group in a long time,” GM Neal Huntington said. “He’s been pitching against older players, although the competition level hasn’t been great.”

»»» The Pirates might use one of their two Class A exemptions for the Arizona Fall League on catcher Tony Sanchez.

Sanchez, a first-round draft pick last year, is recovering a bit slower than expected from a broken jaw. After a recent exam, a doctor did not clear Sanchez for game activity because his jaw remains too unstable and could not be adequately protected with a facemask.

Still, Huntington did not rule out the possibility of Sanchez playing again for High-A Bradenton before this summer is over.

“We’re hoping they make the playoffs,” Huntington said. “If they extend their season, there’s still a chance.”

»»» The Pirates hope to finalize their AFL roster within the next few days, but would be able to make changes over the next four weeks. A few prospects already are on the “must-go” list, but farm director Kyle Stark declined to identify them.

»»» First base coach Carlos Garcia and bullpen coach Luis Dorante will manage in the Venezuelan Winter League. Pitching coach Ray Searge will be on Garcia’s staff.

Huntington hopes the presence of his coaches will encourage more Pirates players — especially those at the major league level — to play winter ball this year. “It’s an environment that we cannot recreate in the minor leagues,” Huntington said. “It’s play well or go home. It’s big, energetic crowds. It’s close to the major league environment.”

»»» Principal owner Bob Nutting attended Jameson Taillon’s press conference this afternoon at PNC Park, but did not stick around to talk with reporters. He and team president Frank Coonelly addressed a pregame Q&A session with season ticket-holders.