July 1, 2022

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Heaney's 'sweeper' gives LA a chance to sweep

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MINNEAPOLIS — Andrew Heaney’s 2021 season is one he hoped to put in the rearview mirror.

The left-hander split the year between the Angels and Yankees after he was traded from Los Angeles to New York at the end of July. Heaney posted a combined 8-9 record and a 5.83 ERA with the two clubs.

The Dodgers, needing to add to the rotation for 2022, signed Heaney to a one-year deal. Los Angeles got its first look at Heaney in his season debut Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins.

Heaney didn’t end up factoring in the decision — a 7-2 Dodgers win that included a lengthy rain delay in the middle of the eighth inning — but he made a good first impression with his new club. Heaney allowed just one unearned run on three hits in 4 1/3 innings of work. He also struck out five Twins batters.

“It was fantastic,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I think that he was really waiting for the anticipation of his first start, and it couldn’t have went any better.”

Tuesday was the first chance for Heaney to showcase his new breaking pitch, a “sweeper” curve that has more side-to-side movement.

Heaney threw the breaking pitch early and often against Minnesota, and had solid results with his new pitch.

“It was good today,” Heaney said. “Honestly, it was the first time I’ve thrown it to hitters, so it was kind of like, ‘just go out there and rip it and hope it works out.’ Definitely something I’ll keep working on, keep tweaking.”

Four of Heaney’s five strikeouts Tuesday were on swings and misses, and two of those four came on the new curveball. Heaney got Twins star Byron Buxton to swing and miss at the sweeper in the bottom of the first inning, and Minnesota DH Gary Sánchez did the same in the fourth.

While Heaney’s fastball was still effective, he showed that his new pitch can also be a useful tool in his arsenal.

“I thought today, that’s as much swing and miss as I recall him having with his breaking ball,” Roberts said. “That’s a very good hitting ballclub over there, so I think today, the proof’s in the pudding. I thought that he saw a lot of swing and miss.”

Heaney was able to work around a pair of doubles by Carlos Correa — the new Twins shortstop and former Astro — who heard an earful from the numerous Dodgers fans in attendance at Target Field.

Correa hit a one-out double in the first inning off Heaney but was stranded at second. In the fourth inning, Correa lead off with yet another double to left. But Heaney retired the next three Twins, including his second strikeout of Sánchez, to once again leave Correa on second base.

The run Heaney did allow came in the fifth inning, with the Dodgers holding onto a 1-0 lead. Max Kepler led off the bottom of the inning with a double and eventually came around to score on an error by Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner.

That play ended Heaney’s night, as he gave way to reliever Brusdar Graterol for the final two outs of the fifth inning. His first Dodgers start — and the debut of his sweeper — was in the books.

“It’s a good feeling to get off to a good start,” Heaney said. “I pitched well, and hopefully keep it rolling.”

Los Angeles’ offense finally came alive in the eight inning with a six-run outburst against Minnesota’s bullpen. Next came the rain delay that lasted nearly an hour and a half, distancing Heaney’s start even more from the end result.

The lockout meant the Dodgers didn’t get to see Heaney in Spring Training as much as they otherwise would have. Roberts said the team had conversations when they signed him before the lockout about the expectations, but had to wait until Tuesday to see everything in action.

Roberts liked what he saw from his No. 4 starter — and his starter’s new pitch — his first time out.

“I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect. He just trusted it,” Roberts said. “It’s something that the more trust he has in his grip, his throw, that the results will be there and he’s only going to get better. I don’t think any of us knew how effective he was going to be tonight, but we hoped. I’m just really excited for Andrew.”

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