A big night for Rangers' rookie batterymates

April 7th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- Manager Chris Woodward said Rangers Top 30 prospects and are “obsessed with being great.”

The two were exactly that in the Rangers' 7-4 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday at Globe Life Field. Dunning, the No. 3-ranked prospect, went five innings in his Texas debut, giving up just one run -- a solo shot from Bo Bichette -- on three hits and notching six strikeouts with no walks.

“It felt really good,” Dunning said. “I'm just happy with the performance and happy with how the team played. I was able to command the zone pretty well with my sinker, just going back and forth and trying to get in on a bunch of hands. I was fortunately able to create enough deception on both sides of the plate that I was able to get some fastballs in on the hands.”

Heim, Texas' No. 27 prospect, hit a solo home run, one of Texas’ four homers in the game. Woodward said he was like a kid in a candy store after the homer, which was the first of Heim's MLB career. Woodward said that Heim, along with starting catcher Jose Trevino, are constantly working on refining their skills and getting better both offensively and defensively.

“Obviously anytime you get a homer in the Major Leagues, it's a special moment, especially your very first one,” Woodward said. “[After that], he goes right back into catching mode. That's his first responsibility, and he takes a lot of pride in it. And he's done a heck of a job obviously in his two starts with the pitching staff, and he's contributed offensively as well.”

Dunning said that he and Heim worked really well together, and they had a good game plan heading in. They went heavy on throwing sinkers, and Dunning thinks they executed the offspeed pitches exactly how they wanted to.

“What we wanted to do was to attack hitters,” Dunning said. “We executed that game plan for the most part. ... We were seeing great, eye-to-eye with everything. Today, I just felt very comfortable with him behind the plate.”

Both of them offseason acquisitions by the Rangers, Dunning and Heim both made their Major League debuts in the shortened 2020 season. With the White Sox, Dunning pitched 34 innings over seven games with a 3.97 ERA. Heim made his debut with the A’s, hitting .211/.268/.211 through 13 games.

Woodward said one thing that stuck out to him about Dunning all spring was his competitiveness, especially when facing other teams. Dunning likes to tinker in the bullpen or during live batting practice, working on specific things like bringing up his spin rate or mixing in his pitches or his efficiency. In live games, he’s a straight competitor.

Dunning said the adrenaline just pumps through him when he’s on the mound.

“He’s a smart kid, loves talking baseball, loves talking pitching and wants to get better,” Woodward said. “I think the thing that really stood out was just when he got on that mound, facing an opposing batter, even if it was our own, but especially if it was a different uniform, it just heightened everything with him.

“He loves to be out there, loves to compete and honestly he pitched better. A lot of guys are really good in a controlled environment, but put them in chaos, they crumble. Dane is the opposite.”