Hearn impresses in rotation audition

August 18th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- Taylor Hearn has been in multiple roles for the Rangers’ pitching staff this season, most notably in middle relief, pitching two or three innings at a time.

On Tuesday night, he got his first official “audition” as a Rangers starter as Texas lost 3-1 to the Mariners at Globe Life Field. In a career-high five innings, he allowed five hits and two earned runs with no walks. He also tossed a career-high 72 pitches.

“He’s been throwing really well for us,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “He was able to get through five innings and probably should’ve only given up one run there. He used his pitches, his slider was pretty good. It backed up on him a few times, but it was effective. He did a nice job.”

The Rangers’ lone run was scored on a solo homer from rookie infielder Andy Ibáñez in the third inning. He went 2-for-3 at the plate in the loss.

Hearn was solid throughout the outing, but a costly mistake was hitting Cal Raleigh with a pitch to lead off the third inning. Raleigh ultimately scored on a sacrifice fly from Ty France three batters later. Both runs scored off of Hearn were on sacrifice flies.

Woodward said co-pitching coach Doug Mathis pointed out that Hearn’s velocity was just a tick down towards the end of his outing, but it was mostly just fatigue from the career-high in innings and pitches that caused the dip. Hearn’s fastball velocity usually tops out around 98-99 mph and averages around 95.5. Tuesday night, it topped out at 96.9 mph with a 93.7 mph average.

Hearn didn’t even notice, explaining that he was just focused on throwing the ball and getting through the start. He said he felt fine physically regardless of the velocity dip. Mathis and Woodward both agreed the velocity wasn’t a long-term issue and should be back within a few starts.  

“It’s one of those things where he’s just been pitching a lot and I think it's just natural,” Woodward said. “We built him up to start every five or six days. When he's pitching, there's gonna be a little decline and hopefully he gets it back at some point.”

The biggest question going forward for Hearn is if he can maintain his stuff -- including the velocity -- throughout starts every five days in the rotation.

“For young starting pitchers that haven't had the big workload, it's difficult,” Woodward said. “There's a lot more stress on your body. It was hard to maintain that power stuff as the pitch count rises. We'll see how [Hearn] goes next time out. But he was fine today, obviously. He competed and got us through five innings.”

Hearn had made three starts this season before Tuesday night, but this one was more significant. The others were spot starts, with two coming after the Rangers dealt Kyle Gibson at the Deadline.

This time, Texas slotted him into the rotation, going with six arms this turn to try to get clarity on every potential starting pitcher -- Jordan Lyles, Mike Foltynewicz, Kolby Allard, Dane Dunning and Spencer Howard.

Hearn’s growth this season has been steady, as he now sports a 3.97 ERA.

Those numbers don’t matter to Hearn though. He said he doesn’t go on social media and rarely checks his stats unless necessary. He just wants to work on being the best version of himself after each start. He doesn't strive to prove that to anybody but himself. 

“I just want to make sure that I, physically and mentally, that I'm a different guy than I was at the beginning of the year,” Hearn said. “[I’d say I’m] a lot different now than I was at the beginning of the year. I know just mentally and physically, I had to do whatever I could to try to maintain everything and not change much. It was honestly just trial and error and getting comfortable with my mechanics, and just trying to figure out what all they needed me to do.”