RedHawks' hurler Andy Van Hekken hasn't pitched in the major leagues in nine years. His manager, Tony DeFrancesco, is wishing that changes soon.
“Hopefully, he will get a chance in September and help the Astros down the finish line,” DeFrancesco said Sunday after Van Hekken pitched Oklahoma City to a 2-1 victory over the Iowa Cubs at RedHawks Field in Bricktown.
Van Hekken scattered six hits over 5 2/3 innings and allowed just one run on a scorching Sunday afternoon to improve to 8-6 on the season. Game time temperature was 106 degrees.
The left-hander started the day with the second best ERA in the Pacific Coast League at 3.51, which Van Hekken lowered to 3.42 after Sunday's contest.
Last week, Van Hekken faced the Cubs in Des Moines, Iowa, and gave up seven earned runs and 11 hits in four innings. On Sunday, he was a different pitcher.
“I just kept the ball down a lot better,” Van Hekken said. “The last time I faced them, I got behind a lot, left my pitches up in the zone. For the most part (on Sunday), I just kept the ball down and mixed up my pitches a lot.”
Van Hekken has been the most consistent pitcher for the RedHawks this season. He started the season in the bullpen and made 16 relief appearances before moving into the starting rotation when Jordan Lyles was called up to Houston.
Van Hekken has started 18 games, and his ERA trails only the 2.15 ERA of Luis Mendoza of Omaha as the league's best.
“Andy has been one of our best pitchers. There has been no doubt,” DeFrancesco said. “He has a chance to be our team MVP.”
Van Hekken is in his 14th season of professional baseball. He made five appearances with the Detroit Tigers in 2002, going 1-3 with an ERA of 3.00.
Since then, he has been with 16 different minor league teams without a call up to the big leagues.
“I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could get back and help a team out,” Van Hekken said.
Van Hekken has spent four seasons in the Astros' organization.
“There just hasn't been a whole lot of opportunity (at the major league level),” Van Hekken said. “I know from the past they don't reward guys, just calling guys up because they've had good years. They want to get guys up there that can help them out (long-term).”
The Astros are presently in a youth movement, and Van Hekken, 32, might be too old to fit into Houston's rebuilding plans.
Van Hekken thinks it is possible that his age might be hindering a promotion to the big leagues, but DeFrancesco doesn't think so.
“If you get them out, I don't think it matters how old you are and he's been doing that all year,” DeFrancesco said. “The last two years, he has definitely had consideration for a major league call up.”
Perhaps it will happen next month when the Triple-A season ends and the major league rosters expand.
“I am not expecting anything,” Van Hekken said. “I am just trying to finish strong and hopefully leave a good impression and give myself a chance to get called up.
“I've put together a solid year. If it doesn't work out here, then hopefully somewhere else it will happen for me.”