EUGENE, Ore. - Oregon outfielder Scott Heineman's new-found power bat has many taking notice. That includes his older brother Tyler, a former UCLA catcher now with the Houston Astros farm system
The former Bruin had been texting with Oregon coach George Horton earlier this week, after his brother won the Pac-12 Player of the Week honor last week.
"He said what's gotten into my brother? What's he doing different? Three of four texts later and I decided Tyler had enough information," Horton said. "He's probably trying to break it down for the opposition this weekend.
Heineman hit just one home run during his freshman year at Oregon and was without one this season unlit the last three games. But starting Saturday in Berkeley, Heineman has gone yard four times.
"I've never seen the power that he's showing right now," said teammate Ryon Healy, who has played with and against Heineman for six years. "It's really special to see the performances he's having on a daily basis."
Heineman says he and his brother text every day, and that he knows he'll be watching this weekend's games on TV.
"He's probably rooting for them [UCLA]," he said.
Heineman began last season as the Duck's start third basemen, but a foot injury sidelined him 34 games last season.
"When he came in here in Sept. it was obvious to us that he'd really advanced offensively," Horton said of Heineman.
6-2 on Eight Game Road Stretch
Horton said he challenged his team before the beginning of an eight-game road stretch that began April 5 in Tempe, Ariz. The Ducks would drop the first two games of the series with the Sun Devils, before snagging the third game 16-3.
According to Heineman, the offense's production over the weekend, they scored 30 runs in three game, despite the outcome gave the offense confidence.
Oregon went on to beat Oregon State at Goss Stadium in a midweek non-conference game and Horton was sure to use the win as a motivational point.
"I reminded that we were only 2-2 in that eight-game stretch. The tendency is to listen…to the 'atta boys', then complacency sets in. I tend to challenge our guys with things like that," he said.
The Ducks would go on to win the next four, capping off a six game win streak that included the program's first conference road sweep (of California) since the program reinstated in 2009.
"When you start 0-2 in a eight-game challenge and finish 6-2, that's pretty good," Horton said.
Part of the turnaround for the Ducks was a change in the order of the Oregon pitching rotation. Against California, Horton moved starter Tommy Thorpe and Cole Irvin up a day and relegated former Friday-night starter Jake Reed to Sunday.
"Jake knows it and he wasn't that Friday guy that needs to much up with the…other Friday guys in the Pac-12," Horton said. "If you're going to try and get Friday done. He's been a guy that's had a hiccup somewhere along the line for someone who's stuff is as good as his is."
Reed is 4-3 on the season with a 3.54 ERA.
According to Horton, the original plan had Irvin moving to Friday night this weekend and Thorpe to Saturday, but after Thorpe allowed just three hits in over eight innings of pitching, Horton decided to leave things the same.
Horton says the move is an indefinite one, and that all three pitchers could could pitch their way up or down in the rotation.
"The thing about Reed, is that he's extremely competitive by nature. Sometimes as a coach you worry about confidence. But in Jake's case, you do worry about the young man and his confidence, but i think he's very responsive to challenges," Horton said.
The Ducks and Bruin open the series Friday at 7 p.m, followed by a 7 p.m start Saturday and a noon start Sunday. UCLA is currently tied with Stanford for third in the conference, three games behind Oregon and Oregon State.