Oct. 2, 2008
What: Alumni Game, Saturday, Oct. 4, noon, Lobo Field
By Richard Stevens, Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Ex-Lobos hurler, Danny Ray Herrera, would like to clear up a misconception. The 5-foot-7, 145-pound left-handed pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization is not 5-7, 145. Never has been.
"I've never been 5-7. I'm 5-6," said Herrera. "It seems everyone lists me at 5-7, 145 and that kind of stuck. I think I was 145 pounds when I was a freshman at UNM, but I gained 20 pounds at UNM and I'm around 170 now. It's a little bit a muscle, a little bit of fat. But I'll take all the weight I can get."
At 5-7, 5-6, or whatever, Herrera was somewhat of a phenom at the University of New Mexico because he was still small by major-college pitching standards. But Herrera did a very important thing on the mound for the Lobos: he got batters out.
His critics thought that might end when he ventured into pro ball, but Herrera's craftiness and his confidence on the mound continued to frustrate batters at the pro level. He was traded by the Texas Rangers to the Reds in December of 2007. Herrera made his Major League debut on June 3, 2008. He pitched one scoreless inning for the Reds, striking out two while giving up one walk and no hits.
"There were some nerves at first, warming up and walking out to the mound," said Herrera, who will be at Lobo Field Saturday for the annual Lobos Alumni baseball game. "But as soon as I took some pitches from the mound, it was just another outing. I really didn't think about the stage I was on. It was just a matter of getting some outs. But it was a memorable experience."
Herrera will be joined at Saturday's game by several other alums from all decades and the alumni will play against each other.
Herrera came to UNM from Permian High in Odessa, Texas. He had a 4-7 mark at UNM in 2004, and 8-5 mark in 2005 as a sophomore, and as a junior was co-Mountain West Pitcher of The Year after a 10-0 campaign. He led the MWC in ERA (2.24), innings pitched (128.1) and games started (17). He spent most of the 2008 season with Louisville (Class AAA), but saw mound time in seven games for the Reds. He struck out eight Major Leaguers, walked three and had a 7.36 ERA.
Being a Texan, Herrera said at first he was disappointed in being traded to the Reds.
"It was a little bit of bad news at first, leaving my home state of Texas," he said. "I really wanted to play there (Rangers), but after a while I looked at the Reds as a great opportunity for me. They saw something they liked in me and that's nice to know."
When Herrera stood on the mound for UNM, he had an array of off-speed and breaking pitches to fool the collegiate batter. He also would throw a fast ball in the high 80s (mph). He said he has developed another pitch at the Major League level.
"I've added a cutter, but I mostly use the same pitches," said Herrera. "I really don't use the cutter that much. When I pitched for UNM, I attacked the batters a little more with my fast ball, but that's not as easy to do at this level."
One of the things that made Herrera so deadly on the mound at UNM was his pitching presence. Herrera was a pure pitcher. He thought the game. He worked batters. He was in command of the strike zone.
"I'm pretty mentally tough on the mound," said Herrera. "I think it's pretty tough to face me because controlling the situation is part of what I do. I can't be mentally weak and be successful. Being mentally tough is part of my game and it's something I really need at this level."
Herrera said he is looking forward to spending time in Albuquerque with former teammates and maybe even show some current Lobos his dazzling array of pitches. Heck, he might even throw the fast ball.
"I couldn't make the game last year because I was in the fall league," said Herrera. "But I've been looking forward to this. I've been calling some buddies and trying to get more guys to show up. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner.