SCOTTSDALE — Chris Heston doesn’t remember what he ate after no-hitting the Mets last June. Between celebrating with family and friends, returning text messages, and fulfilling media responsibilities, Heston isn’t fully sure if he had time to eat, period, and he doesn’t remember eating much the next couple of days.
This season, that won’t be the case. For the second straight offseason Heston put an emphasis on gaining weight, and this summer his goal is to keep it all on. A rising ERA as a rookie correlated almost exactly with a downtick in velocity, which the Giants connect to the 20 pounds Heston lost over the course of six months.
Heston came into the 2015 season at about 220 pounds, leading to a slight increase in velocity from previous years that dramatically improved his effectiveness. He averaged 93 mph on his fastball in his debut and 92 on June 9 when he no-hit the Mets. Heston lost one tick in August and by September he was maxing out at 89 with his four-seamer and 90 with a two-seamer that was regularly touching 93 during Heston’s first four months as a big league starter.
Heston put the 20 pounds back on this offseason, using an uncomplicated method.
“Just eat,” he said Sunday, smiling. “Just eat everything in sight.”
Asked why this year will be different, Heston said he’s “one year wiser” and he now knows that he has to focus more on eating during road trips. The grind of a big league season can creep up on younger players, and Heston knows that keeping his weight up needs to be the priority.
“You know what to expect now when it comes to travel and being in other cities and the food they offer,” he said. “(Keeping the weight on) makes it easier on the body and allows it to produce that power. The heavier you are, the harder you throw. It makes it easier to get down that slope of the mound.”
That’s been the case for Heston, and nobody has thrown better for the Giants this spring than he did on Sunday. Heston worked around an error in the first, striking out Jose Pirela, Matt Kemp and Yangervis Solarte with a varied pitch mix and devastating curveball. He gave up just one hit in four innings, striking out four and getting six outs on the ground.
"That's the best start we've had this spring," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He was crisp with all his pitches, had good action on his sinker, a good breaking ball. He really was locked in today. He really was pounding the strike zone with all his pitches and he went in and out with all his pitches. That's the Heston we saw most of last year."
Heston was starting in place of Madison Bumgarner, who will miss at least one turn with a pair of ailments that he said are minor. Bumgarner expects to be back in the rotation soon, but Heston still could find a spot as a starter once April rolls around. Matt Cain (cyst removed) may miss his first start, and Heston would be the fill-in. No matter what happens with Cain, it seems likely — given some of the injury concerns in the rotation — that Heston again will make a fair number of starts for the Giants. He hasn't allowed himself to get comfortable, though.
“The goal is to come in ready,” Heston said. “I don’t have the luxury of sitting back.”
When Heston isn’t making spot starts he’ll likely be Bochy’s long reliever. That role can mess with your routine, meaning it will be even more important for Heston to be aware of what he eats and how much he’s eating.
Heston seems ready to make adjustments. While talking to reporters after his start Sunday, Heston took note of one scribe’s favorite taco place in San Diego. He smiled and nodded when another mentioned that you can find a hearty milkshake in any city.
“I do some damage to some milkshakes, too,” Heston said.