Texas Rangers

Part of Rangers’ big-picture plans, this prospect has big pitching plans

Taylor Hearn pitched for High A Bradenton in 2017 and was at Double A Altoona this season when the Rangers acquired him Monday from the Pirates.
Taylor Hearn pitched for High A Bradenton in 2017 and was at Double A Altoona this season when the Rangers acquired him Monday from the Pirates. zwittman@bradenton.com

Game 2 of life after the trade deadline Thursday saw the Texas Rangers actually facing a Baltimore Orioles team that has dived deeper into a rebuild than they have.

Of course, with Manny Machado, Jonathan Scoop and Zach Britton available for the fire sale, the Orioles had a deeper pool in which to dive.

Meanwhile in Frisco, left-hander Taylor Hearn made his way to Dr Pepper Ballpark for the first time as a professional ballplayer but not for the first time. Having grown up in Royse City, Hearn watched Double A ball in Frisco or the Rangers at Globe Life Field when he wasn’t playing.

He arrived to the ‘burbs as the biggest of the Rangers’ 11 acquisitions in July, 10 of whom are still with the organization. Unlike with Austin Jackson, the Denton native acquired in early July and then released, the Rangers have plans for Hearn.

The 23-year-old is going to be a groomed as a starting pitcher, even though prospect-focused industry publications have him pegged as an MLB-ready reliever right now and in the future.

For at least his Frisco debut Friday, he will do so in front of a large crowd of family and friends.

“The welcoming party will actually be tomorrow during the game,” Hearn said Thursday via phone.

But this isn’t just a homecoming for Hearn. He’s suddenly in the middle of his hometown team’s rebuilding project.

“I’m going to try to make the most of it, especially coming home to play for the hometown team,” Hearn said. “That’s even more motivation. I’m not going to try to change anything. I’m going to take it day by day and get it out there.”

The Rangers acquired Hearn and a player to be named from the Pittsburgh Pirates late Monday for right-handed closer Keone Kela. It was their fourth of five July trades, and Hearn is one of eight prospects added in the nonwaiver period.

Baseball America considered him to be the ninth-best prospect to change hands at the deadline, and MLB Pipeline ranked him seventh in their revised rankings of the top 30 Rangers prospects.

He will enter his first start in his new organization at 3-6 with a 3.12 ERA after 19 starts for Double A Altoona. Hearn registered 107 strikeouts in 104 innings, with 38 walks, while holding opponents to a .198 average.

He was the starting pitcher for the Western Division in the Eastern League All-Star Game.

General manager Jon Daniels said on Tuesday that Hearn throws two pitches that get a plus grade — a fastball that hits 98 mph and a changeup — and can also throw a slider for strikes.

The slider has come along this season to the point where Hearn is confident in it. But he said the biggest key for his success this season has been finding a routine that has allowed him to be more consistent.

After a three-start stretch at the end of April and the beginning of May in which he allowed five, seven and four runs, Hearn hasn’t allowed more than four runs in his past 16 starts.

Included in the stretch was a seven-inning complete-game four-hitter June 7. That was of his three games with nine strikeouts, and he followed it 10 strikeouts over six innings.

“We think he can start, and I have a very high degree of confidence he’d be a real impact reliever if it ever went down that path,” Daniels said. “Big, physical, intelligent left-hander with really competitive makeup. There’s a lot of pitchers starting in the big leagues with lesser ability.”

Hearn, who pitched at San Jacinto Junior College and Oklahoma Baptist before being the Washington Nationals’ fifth-round pick in 2015, seems to agree with that assessment. It also seems he’s seen the scouting reports pinning him down a future relief role.

He has been pitching to prove them wrong.

“Everybody wants to be a starter,” Hearn said. “But it’s one thing to say and one thing to do it. I’ve been trying to just go out there and do it and just show people that I can be a starter.”

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