UNIVERSITY PARK — Look for Luis Heredia to resemble a 17-year-old at some point this summer.
Former college standouts will belt his fastball. His changeup and curveball will miss the strike zone. His pleasant demeanor will fade.
But for at least one night, those pitfalls seemed distant.
The prized Pittsburgh Pirates’ prospect nailed his first exam with the State College Spikes by allowing one hit in four scoreless innings in Thursday’s 8-0 victory over Williamsport at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Every task Heredia, a Mexican native who signed for $2.6 million as a 16-year-old in 2010, pursued left a strong first impression.
“He’s a really gifted individual,” teammate Barrett Barnes said. “Young kid. Handles himself well. Handles himself like a professional.”
The baseball-related details of Heredia’s night: Four innings, one hit, no runs, two walks, four strikeouts, 48 pitches, 39 fastballs, 31 strikes.
The details not found in the box score: Heredia arrived for work at 1 p.m., watched a random assortment of television programs and movies, never wilted before 3,323 fans and conducted a large part of his postgame interview in English despite the presence of a translator.
“From my experience, he’s not 17,” Spikes manager Dave Turgeon said. “He’s so beyond his years. He has to be.”
The maturity showed in the first. Heredia walked ultra-fast Williamsport leadoff hitter Roman Quinn on seven pitches. Quinn stole second. But Heredia never budged. He induced a flyout, struck out No. 3 hitter Brian Pointer with a changeup in the dirt and forced Chris Serritella into a groundout.
Heredia threw 17 pitches, including 14 fastballs, in the inning. Two of those fastballs touched 92 mph.
His second inning ended with Mitch Walding bouncing into a 6-4-3 double play. On his way to the dugout, Heredia stopped by the first-base line and bumped gloves with new shortstop Chris Diaz and second baseman Jodaneli Carvajal. The gesture symbolized Heredia’s appreciation for the duo’s effort.
Heredia breezed through the third, striking out Logan Moore and Tyler Greene with fastballs. He ended his outing by breaking Serritella's bat and inducing a 5-4-3 double play.
The Pirates determined before the game that Heredia would throw no more than four innings.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Heredia said. “My mentality is strong when I’m pitching. That’s how I am on the mound.”
The start tied the longest of Heredia’s 13-outing professional career. He also pitched four innings in a rookie Gulf Coast League outing on Aug. 19, 2011.
Don’t bother comparing the outings. GCL games are played during the day and crowds consist of family members, scouts and hardened fans looking for baseball’s next big prospect.
“Yeah, it was a little different,” he said. “Different setting. Different country. I feel good. I like being here.”
Pitching coach Justin Meccage said the outing resembled Heredia’s performances at the end of extended spring training, a rigorous 2 1/2-month program for players who
don’t make one of the Pirates’ four full-season affiliates. Heredia’s late-spring surge earned him a trip to State College.
“I saw these same kind of outings in extended at the end,” Meccage said. “I wasn’t sure how he would react under the lights and with fans in the stadium. He handled it very well.”
Heredia faces his second New York-Penn League test next Tuesday at Batavia. The next four days will consistent of long work days, bullpen sessions, charting pitches and adapting to new surroundings. Heredia had never pitched north of Florida until Thursday.
Developing pitches to complement his fastball — Heredia only threw two curveballs against the Crosscutters — is a between-start focus.
“Hopefully by the end of the season, we will have the three-pitch mix,” Meccage said.
A 6-foot-6, 237-pound right-hander who throws three pitches for strikes offers intriguing possibilities, especially if nights such as Thursday become the norm. But even Heredia understands more work awaits.
“It was a good first one,” he said. “I’m ready for the second one.”
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy