Hearn 'dominant' in hitless start vs. A's

March 12th, 2021

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers lefty was the silver lining of Thursday’s 6-0 loss to the A's.

Hearn, who is competing for one of two open spots in the Rangers’ rotation, threw 2 1/3 hitless innings against Oakland, and retired the seven batters he faced after hitting Tony Kemp with the first pitch of the game. His spring total is up to 5 1/3 scoreless frames.

Rangers mananger Chris Woodward said Hearn is exactly where he expected him to be in camp, as the lefty continues to develop and compete on the mound.

“It was dominant,” Woodward said. “His fastball was dominant and I thought it opened up the lane for the changeup and some decent sliders there. Some of those pitches that he was getting outs on, he just blew the doors off these guys.”

Texas' bats on ice
A day after scoring 17 runs on 18 hits against the Mariners, the Rangers couldn’t get a ball in play for 6 2/3 innings against Oakland.

The A’s took a combined no-hit bid into the last out of the seventh inning -- the final frame of Thursday’s game -- before Andy Ibáñez hit a scorcher up the middle for a single and the Rangers' first and only hit of the game.

A’s starter Jesús Luzardo pitched four of the seven innings, striking out five and walking two. It’s the second one-hitter Oakland has thrown in Spring Training since 1990. The other was on March 9, 2020, also against the Rangers.

Woodward said he didn’t mind the game plan they had, which was to see what and how Luzardo was throwing early on. He broke out a pitch he calls "The Turkey Sub," a funky, low-speed offering that he used against Leody Taveras in the third inning.

“In the past we've swung early on the guy,” Woodward said. “So we wanted to see some pitches, which, unfortunately, he's really good to put you behind in the counts at times. We know we're going to face this guy quite a bit. So, we don't mind having a little struggle if we're gonna get to see some of those pitches.”

Leadoff hitter switch up
The Rangers began Spring Training with Taveras leading off every game he started, but after some struggles, Woodward made some changes.

He batted in the nine-hole in his last two games. Woodward said Taveras has been working on taking better, more quality at-bats -- following the Rangers' matchup with the A’s on Thursday, Taveras only has one hit and one walk through 13 at-bats.

“He's got to work his way back to the top,” Woodward said. “It's not like a panic, but he hasn't been, obviously, hitting as well as you'd like. The quality of the at-bats haven't been what we want. It's the way to kind of ease him back in there and maybe get him a little more comfortable.”

Taveras is still poised to be the Opening Day starting center fielder for the Rangers, but he won’t be in the leadoff spot unless things change soon.

Instead, Isiah Kiner-Falefa has shifted to the leadoff spot. Woodward said he’s been having quality plate appearances and sets the tone for the game. He has three hits and four walks through 13 at-bats so far this spring.

Kiner-Falefa said earlier in the week that one of his biggest struggles in the past is that he swung at almost everything close to a strike and put the ball in play a lot early in the count.

This spring, he’s worked on waiting for “his pitch,” resulting in his .412 on-base percentage.

“He’s put the ball in play and he's also seen the most pitches, so those two things usually don't go hand in hand,” Woodward said. “It just shows you he’s controlling the strike zone and not willing to chase, especially when it’s two strikes or even an advantage count. He's just not budging at all.

“If he keeps having the at-bats he’s having, he has to be at the top. I mean it just is what it is. You want your best guy.”

Woodward emphasized that if Kiner-Falefa does it consistently, he’ll crush the ball.

“If he stays in the middle, he's gonna do some damage,” Woodward said. “He's gonna hit a lot of doubles, triples, some pole-side homers. I love his mentality, his calmness, his physicality in the batter's box.”

Odor continues to adjust at third
Last week, Rougned Odor asked Woodward if he could play third base instead of his typical second base.

He played second base in his first Cactus League game before wanting to get more work at third in an attempt to make the Opening Day roster. Since then, Odor has adjusted well to the position, making a number of good plays and showing that he should at least be in the conversation. At the plate, he's batting .308 through 13 at-bats.

Odor said he’s continuing to learn the position, and it’s going better than he expected it would. Woodward has said multiple times that if Odor can hit, he'll find a way into the lineup.

Woodward said Odor’s physical tools really showed up against the A’s, when he made all three outs in the third inning -- two 5-3 putouts and a flyball back behind third base.

“I think, honestly, it seems like it's better suited for his skill set,” Woodward said of Odor at third. “His arm is really true and does not tail at all. He's been really good over there.”