March 25, 2012

Veteran Heilman plans to work way up through minors

by Beau Wicker

Peoria, Ariz. — Veteran Major League pitcher Aaron Heilman is not ready to hang up his cleats just yet.

The former Logansport High School pitching star was featured in an article on Fox Saturday written by Reid Forgrave.

In the article, Forgrave notes that Heilman went into Seattle Mariners camp in February with no guarantee for the first time since he was a first-round pick coming into his first spring training in 2002. He was fighting for a job like a rookie. He’d been a valuable bullpen piece for the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks, appearing in 70 or more games five years in a row. But that streak ended last year, as an injury hurt Heilman’s mechanics, leading to a miserable 6.88 ERA with the Diamondbacks.

Forgrave asked if it was time for Heilman to move on to life after baseball? Heilman answered that sure, he’d like to be home in suburban Chicago more in the summer months, spending time with his 17-month-old daughter. But deep down he believes he has plenty more baseball in him. He’s only 33. He’s not ready to go back to school and pursue an MBA. He’s spent spring training working on his arm angle, getting his mechanics in order so he doesn’t think about them when he’s in game situations.

And he’s still having fun.

“Some of the best advice I’ve gotten from some veterans when I was coming up was, when it’s not fun anymore, when it becomes a job, it’s time to go,” Heilman told Forgrave. “When you’re there purely for a job and a paycheck, it’s time to go.

“Thinking about it can be stressful, if you let it,” he continued. “This game, being in it long enough, you realize anything can change at any moment. So you try to get good at living on the fly and taking things one day at a time. … You just go with the flow, trust yourself.”

Last week Heilman had a setback, Forgrave noted. That bullpen job he was fighting for? It went to someone else. Heilman was reassigned to the Mariners’ minor league camp, where he has to fight his way back to the bigs.

Heilman is a nine-year Major League veteran and has a career ERA of 4.40. He has pitched in 477 games, the vast majority as a middle reliever out of the bullpen.