Hebert Working on Command

Hebert wants a better grasp of the strike zone

Michael Hebert was the second pitcher selected in last summer's draft class. Taken right out of high school, the 18-year-old right-hander entered confident his effectiveness in the Gulf Coast League would mirror that of his last amateur season. However, that was not the case as he was consistently wild. Now he is off to Instructs to get his command on track.


Michael Hebert, 18, took the mound in the Gulf Coast League with fairly high expectations. After prolonged success against his high school peers, the right-hander believed his game could carry him to similar achievements at the next level.

"I thought I'd go in there firing on all cylinders and blowing by guys, but I had a lot of rocky times that I had to work through at the beginning, but it didn't start off like I thought it would." said Hebert.

The rocky times were a result of a lack of consistency in the strike zone which began right out of the gate. In his first outing—a one inning appearance—he issued three walks and repeated that in his next two inning appearances. By the end of the season, he doled out 29 free passes in 21 innings pitched.

Yet Hebert was not hit all that often during his summer as the opposition recorded just 11 hits off him. Nonetheless, he knew adjustments had to be made to better understand the strike zone.

"I really didn't get hit all that much during the summer, but I gave up so many walks. Walking guys was the biggest problems."

"In high school, I could walk a guy or two and probably strike out the side, but here they're taught to hit better to the situation, and so if I walk guys, the lineup is better at moving runners over and I can give up runs without giving up a hit like I did this year."

First, Hebert went to work on his mechanics. Though he has a rather standard, calm delivery, it was the timing of his motion that threw him off and was one reason for his wildness.

"One thing I started doing differently was separating my hands at a better time. I really need to take the ball out before I go to the plate which ties into my rhythm. I look a lot smoother and pitching with more ease," he explained.

"My hands weren't separating and I was going forward without separating and my arm had to catch up. I was cutting everything off and not throwing as hard or in control."

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, Hebert emphasized first-pitch strikes and that was a lesson instilled in him by GCL pitching coach Robert Ellis. The lesson has been no matter the hitter, no matter the pitch, Hebert needs stay in the zone to start at-bats then pick his spots from there.

With Hebert, Ellis reinforced the organizational philosophy of pitching down in the zone to contact. His pitcher responded and built confidence in the process.

"All the walks showed me that I had to get first-pitch strikes and pitch to contact," he said. "Coach Ellis, who is an amazing coach, kept me focused on that and got me to where I needed to be by the end of the year:"

"I'm confident enough in my stuff that if I can throw down in the zone and over the plate at the knees, I won't get hit as hard. I think I proved that during the summer."

Now with his frame filled out thanks to 12 additional pounds added during the season, Hebert is solely focused on the Instructional League season which he plans to use as a launching point for his sophomore campaign.

"My goal for next year is to make a full-season team and pitch at Instructs like it's the start to the 2009 season. I'm going to go down there, pitch hard and work to cut the walks down and throw more strikes. If I can do that, I feel confident about making a full-season team, but first I have to show it," he closed.

InsidePitchMagazine.com Recommended Stories