Rangers need starting pitchers to step up

Allard settles into rotation, King, Hearn ready for any role; Kennedys give back

June 26th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- After starting the season at 18-18 on May 9, the Rangers went 9-30 with a 17-game road losing streak through late May and early June entering Friday's series opener against the Royals at Globe Life Field.

Manager Chris Woodward thinks some things need to be shaken up, starting with the pitching rotation.

Kolby Allard has already slotted into the rotation -- the club's third pitcher to inherit a starting role after an injury to Kohei Arihara landed him on the 60-day injured list. Allard has done a formidable job, lowering his ERA to 3.33 through five starts.

Lefty John King has been internally being built back up to be a starter after some struggles within the rotation. He’ll start with a few piggyback situations like he did in Saturday's loss to the Twins. That was his first appearance since June 13, and he went three innings without allowing a hit.

King has a 2.41 ERA out of the bullpen this season. Woodward said he’ll do a few more piggybacks before getting back into the full swing of starting, including following Dane Dunning, who started on Friday against Kansas City. It’s unclear which rotation spot King may usurp.

Taylor Hearn also could be a rotation candidate. Woodward said he’s been impressed with the lefty’s growth over the course of the season and likes his ability to fit into any role the club needs him in.

“You can just feel that he’s calm out on the mound he’s able to execute pitches,” Woodward said. “When he does that, he’s got an elite fastball, a really good slider, and he's added that changeup that has become really effective. So honestly [I want him to] just go after these guys, attack them and he’ll be fine. I think that's what we've seen lately from him.”

Hearn got a spot start against the A's on Tuesday, his first in over a year, but was unable to get out of the first inning as he struggled with his command. Hearn said he felt like he got too warm in the bullpen before the game and tired himself out going into the start.

He emphasized that he’s not too worried about that individual struggle as he works to fit in whatever role the club needs him in.

“I've done a fair job out of the ‘pen I think,” Hearn said. “So it's kind of like you know whatever the guys need me to do. If one start was all they needed, that's fine, or whatever it is I want to try whatever I can for them to maximize my potential, whether it's starting or in relief. To me it's not really a good deal, it's like just another game.”

Woodward said that Hearn getting the start in place of Jordan Lyles was more about getting Lyles rest, but didn’t deny that Hearn was getting the opportunity based on his performance.

With Khris Davis having been designated for assignment on June 8 and released five days later, the Rangers have shown they won't hesitate to dispatch veterans who aren't getting the job done.

All of the Rangers’ three options to be extended into starters -- Allard, King and Hearn -- have fewer than three years of service time.

Texas ace Kyle Gibson has by far been the most consistent member of the rotation, but everybody else has been up-and-down at best and wildly inconsistent at worst. Dunning, a rookie right-hander, has been on a slight pitch limit, while veterans Lyles and Mike Foltynewicz had a combined ERA of 5.44 coming into Friday.

Woodward emphasized that he can’t say for sure if the staff plans to shake up the rotation any further, but everything will be performance based, even involving the veterans.

“We may, you know, make a move,” Woodward said. “I think it depends on performance really from some of the older guys. We're still trying to win games and stay competitive. We don’t want to just throw young guys out there to the wolves. There has to be some purpose behind it, and if we feel like a guy can change that role, then we might make that move.”

Kennedys giving back

Reliever Ian Kennedy and his wife, Allison, are hosting the families of military and first responders at the Rangers’ Friday night home games.

In the series opener against the Royals, the Kennedys hosted approximately 50 of those families in section 132, which is behind the Rangers' bullpen in right field. Gold Star Mothers and their families were the first group in attendance on Friday.

The American Gold Star Mothers is a nonprofit group that supports mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the line of service with the United States military.

Guests will also get complimentary concessions and retail vouchers for the games, in addition to a question and answer session with Kennedy during Rangers batting practice. Upcoming groups include the Arlington Fire Department on July 9 and the USO on July 30.

“We just had a bunch of family members of the group called Gold Star Moms and it’s just a way for Allison and I to give a thank you,” Kennedy said. “We get to host them out here for a ballgame, they get some Rangers merchandise, some food, and enjoy the Rangers winning hopefully.

"We just love doing this. We love doing it for our first responders and our military families. It's just like I said, our way to say thank you and hopefully we can do future events.”