Aug. 23, 2004
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Former Notre Dame four-year All-American Aaron Heilman is set to make his return to the Major Leagues tonight when the New York Mets take on the San Diego Padres in the first of a four-game set at Shea Stadium. It will mark the righthander’s first big-league appearance since Sept. 26, 2003, when he pitched in a road games versus the Florida Marlins. The former first-round pick (18th overall in 2001) went 2-7 in 2003 during 14 outings (13 starts) with the Mets, posting a 6.75 ERA. One of his better 2003 major-league efforts actually came against the Padres, as Heilman went six innings and allowed only two hits and one run at Qualcomm Park on Aug. 20. Heilman lost his bid to stay in the starting rotation during 2004 spring training and then started the season slowly with the triple-A Norfolk Tides before surging in recent weeks for a 6-9 overall mark and 4.20 ERA with the ’04 Tides. “I’m anxious to see how he’s developed,” Mets manager Art Howe said. “He’s still one of our hopefuls. I think he’s using his changeup more effectively and he’s getting more tilt on his slider. He needs to do that to be successful at the Major League level. “He’s got a big-league fastball and it has movement. He has to have command of his pitches, though. He just didn’t have command of his pitches. And I’ve always liked his mental makeup.” Heilman is one of 18 former Notre Dame players currently active in professional baseball, with the others including Milwaukee Brewers infielder Craig Counsell and Houston Astros closer Brad Lidge. Three others are knocking on the door at the triple-A level: pitchers Chris Michalak (Albuquerque Isotopes) and Christian Parker (Edmonton Trappers) and infielder Brant Ust (Toledo Mud Hens) while outfielder Steve Stanley opened the season with the triple-A Sacramento River Cats and currently is swinging a hot bat with the double-A Midland (Texas) Rockhounds.