Wednesday Newsletter time: Taylor Hearn said he felt fine, but radar gun told Rangers coaches otherwise
(AP photo/Tony Gutierrez)
ARLINGTON — Taylor Hearn was better Tuesday than he was his last time out, when he yielded five first-inning runs and lasted only until the third inning.
It would have been troubling had he not been better.
And the Texas Rangers left-hander seemed relatively pleased with allowing four runs in five innings to the Houston Astros in an eventual 5-1 loss. He felt good, he said, and he only lamented the cookie he threw to Kyle Tucker in the fourth inning that resulted in a two-run homer.
Manager Chris Woodward, though, had a different interpretation.
“It was just OK to me,” he said.
Woodward saw too many 91s and 92s on the radar gun, as opposed to the mid-90s Hearn’s fastball registers when he’s on the attack and at his best. Hearn dismissed that by saying he was giving everything he had, which wasn’t what he usually has, but Woodward seemed to be speaking both specifically about Tuesday and in general terms about Hearn’s four-start body of work thus far.
Maybe he’s dealing with some dead arm, something that usually afflicts a starting pitcher in spring training. But with the screwed-up spring, maybe he’s just now getting there.
There is a recent precedent. In the shortened 60-game season in 2020, Rangers lefty Mike Minor dealt with dead arm after the three-week spring training 2.0. It took him about three weeks into the season to work through it.
But time isn’t necessarily on Hearn’s side. He’s still developing, but he’s getting the chance to do so in the major leagues. The Rangers expect him to take a step forward, but they aren’t going to keep him in the rotation all season if he doesn’t show more.
The Rangers aren’t preparing to make a move with Hearn. He’s going to get more starts, assuming he is healthy, because the Rangers don’t want to rush any of their pitching prospects.
And, again, maybe he’s is just dealing with a simple case of dead arm.
Woodward, though, made it pretty clear that Hearn needs to do more.
“He’s getting a golden opportunity right now,” Woodward said. “I love the kid dearly, and I think the world of him. I have super-high expectations for him. He’s got a power arm, but we just haven’t seen the power.”
Unexpected bullpen help
Left-hander Matt Moore was one of the game’s top prospects 11 years ago, and he has a big postseason moment against the Rangers in 2011 to prove it.
He was a starter with power stuff, but he was derailed by Tommy John surgery and was never quite the same.
Now, though, he recognizes that his starting days are over and the best thing for his career is to pitch out of the bullpen in meaningful spots.
“Some time through last year I kind of realized that it doesn’t matter what role I’m in as long as I’m in a game that matters,” Moore said. “Being in at the end of the game when you’re down a touchdown or up a touchdown, it’s not where I feel like I thrive.”
Moore has pitched late in close games recently during his second stint with the Rangers. His fastball plays up in shorter stints. He also changed the grip on his curveball in spring training, and it’s had a big impact on his arsenal.
The Rangers want Moore to work multiple innings, but they are also willing to experiment with him working as a one-inning reliever who can pitch on back-to-back days.
But the ability of Moore, Garrett Richards and Brock Burke able to cover more than three outs could convince the Rangers to not use a 14th pitcher next month as the Rangers return to 26 players. They could also go with 13 relievers if starters Jon Gray and Spencer Howard can get their pitch counts built higher.
With as much as the Rangers use their bench and the success they have had pinch-hitting, there will be a healthy debate about staying with a full bench.
“We’ll talk through that,” Woodward said. “It just depends on where our pitchers are at. If their pitch limits are what they are and we feel like we need that extra arm, we’re going keep it.”
New today at Rangers Today
A very productive Tuesday should lead to some good reading later this week. Among the stories coming is a three-part T.R.’s Memoirs. Part I will be published this morning.
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