How Taylor Hearn has developed from a bullpen arm into a likely starter for the Texas Rangers


SURPRISE, Ariz. — Maybe the Rangers had it all wrong on Taylor Hearn.

Almost from the moment they got him from Pittsburgh, conventional wisdom was that his power lefty stuff would, in the long-term, play better out of the bullpen. His two-pitch fastball-slider mix would, in theory, make it challenging to maintain success during a third trip through the lineup. That’s what all the data suggested.

It missed, perhaps, one key element: Hearn wanted to start. At every opportunity, the Royse City native told the team he thought he was best suited to start. Sometimes, you have to believe in the human.

Which is why on Monday, Hearn, 27, will make his first appearance of the spring as a starter against Cleveland. He will do so with a very decided edge for one of the remaining two spots in the starting rotation. With only four starts this spring, it’s a relative certainty, he will begin the season in the rotation. There may be mad competition for one spot, but Hearn seems to have the other.

“He deserves it,” manager Chris Woodward said. “I think that’s just the growth that he’s shown.

“He was better as a starter,” he added. “You think out of the bullpen you’re going to face like three or four guys and you are going to blow it out and they can’t touch you. It’s a limited sampling and limited exposure. You just go. But when we put him in the rotation, he just got more comfortable. He started using his pitches better. He added a sinker and was able to put it into a game right away. He was more confident. He wasn’t looking over to the dugout. He just got locked in.”

In a relief role in 2020, Hearn didn’t throw a sinking fastball at all. He started incorporating it in 2021. By the time he moved into the rotation in late July, it was a fully-accredited member of his rotation. He threw the sinker about 20% of the time in 2021. Of all his sinkers, though, the great majority came over the last two months of the season when he was in the rotation.

On the whole, data suggests it was just an average pitch. But it made the rest of his arsenal better. Batters’ averages dropped significantly against his slider (used 20% of the time) and his changeup (12%).

The results spoke for themselves: Once the Rangers started building up his pitch counts and having him go more than two innings at a time, he held hitters to a .243/.304/.414/.718 slash line. Until that point: .252/.344/.437/.781. His walk rate and his homer rate also dropped when he moved into the rotation.

“I felt like I set the tone more,” Hearn said. “I attacked hitters more. There are two different levels of confidence. In the bullpen, I got confidence that I could pitch in the big leagues. In the rotation, I got the confidence that I belonged.

“There’s just a lot more calm that goes with it,” he added. “I trusted my ability more.”

In a weird way, perhaps the lockout made him more confident, too. It made him believe he had something to offer other players and allowed him to connect with younger ones, too.

Hearn has the heart and mind of an activist. The lockout allowed him to get involved with things that needed changing on the business side of the game and it allowed him to tour seven area high schools, promoting the game and working out with teams. From Terrell to Arlington and Red Oak to Greenhill Academy, Hearn talked with players, threw to hitters and generally gave back.

“It was fun,” he said of the whole process.

Wait. What? The lockout was fun?

“Oh, it was rough, sure,” he said. “But I wanted to learn more about it. I want to be informed. I wanted to be more involved. I tried to understand both sides on the players’ end. The younger guys just wanted to play, but it was important to understand the past. When my time comes, I want to be in a position where I can share my experiences with the next generation and help them make the game better, too. So I was kind of in the middle.

“And working out with the kids was definitely fun,” he said. “I wanted to provide a little inspiration to them.”

Hearn can keep doing that. All he’s got to do is keep proving he belongs in the Rangers’ starting rotation.

Texas Rangers infielder Marcus Semien (2) laughs with former Rangers third baseman Adrian...

Find more Rangers coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

Source
Gear up for the 2020 MLB Season with new gear from Nike

Shop for NFL Gear at Fanatics!
mlbgameday
Welcome to GameDay.Blog Powered by SportsBook-Live.com. Please register to our site, As more States become Available for Online Gambling, We will automatically upgrade your status from Subscriber to Player. Please note we are not affilliated in any way with ESPN, CBS Sports, Home depot or CitiBank GameDay Programs.
https://mlbgameday.sportsbook-live.com