"It was a pretty good season," said Eric Hurley, arguably the top prospect in the Rangers organization. "I did what Texas asked me to do throughout the whole year and overall it was a pretty good year."
Hurley, who turned 22-years-old on August 17, split his season almost evenly between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma. He posted a 7-2 record and a 3.25 ERA in 15 starts – 88.2 innings – with the RoughRiders. After earning a mid-season promotion to Oklahoma, the right-hander held a 4.91 earned run average in 13 starts. He logged 73.1 innings with the Triple-A club and surrendered 65 hits, walked 28, and fanned 59.
When spring training broke in early April, the Rangers asked Hurley to continue working on a few things they had focused on prior to the season.
"They wanted me to make the adjustments in my windup that I worked on in spring training and to stay consistent," said Hurley. "They wanted me to pound the strike zone – I got my walks up a little bit this year, but for the most part I thought my strikeout-to-walk ratio was alright. Everything we worked on in spring training, I thought I took into the game pretty well."
The adjustment made in Hurley's windup was aimed at improving his rhythm.
"I put in a little more hand movement," he said. "I wasn't going over my head anymore. I was trying to get a little better rhythm throughout my windup."
One area the adjustment helped Hurley in was the development of his changeup, which has been a focus of his since joining the organization in 2004.
"[The adjustment] definitely helped me free up my arm a little bit and, like I said, I got better rhythm," explained the former first round pick. "Everything felt better coming out of my hand. It made my offspeed a little more consistent and it definitely helped my changeup."
Changing his mechanics wasn't all Hurley did to improve his changeup. The righty worked to improve it every day during the season.
"You just work on it every day, even when you don't have a bullpen," said Hurley when asked how he improved his changeup. "You just throw it playing catch. When I'd get nice and loose, I'd throw a couple of balls hard and then try to throw the changeup grip with the same arm speed and same motion I was doing with my fastball."
Hurley went on to call his changeup his most improved pitch this season.
"I felt pretty confident in it," said Hurley. "I worked on it pretty hard with Terry Clark down in Frisco and then I took it up and refined it a little more when I got with Hawk [Oklahoma pitching coach Andy Hawkins]. It came out pretty good. I was throwing it in 2-1 counts, 1-1 counts, and starting hitters off with it. It definitely helps."
The hurler also believes the addition of a third above-average offering will be a key to his success against good teams.
"It gives you one extra pitch to throw," said Hurley. "It's hard to go out there and beat a good team with two pitches, especially when you're trying to see them three times through the lineup."
Many pitchers – at both the major and minor league levels – have credited RedHawks pitching coach Andy Hawkins as being a major part of their success. The case is no different with Hurley, who constantly worked on being able to repeat new delivery with the coach.
"Just consistency and trying to repeat my delivery over and over again," said Hurley when asked what he worked on with Hawkins. "That's the biggest thing about pitching, being able to repeat. If you can repeat your delivery then everything happens a little more consistently. Pitches come out of your hand a little better and you're able to make good pitches on a more consistent basis."
After an outstanding second-half in 2006 gave him a reputation as a strong finisher, Hurley posted a 6.48 ERA over his last six starts in 2007. Although his results weren't perfect, Hurley says he felt fine.
"I don't really think I struggled that much," he said. "I think my command got a little out of whack, but my body felt great and I'm not disappointed with how I ended the year. I think I went out there and competed pretty well."
Many observers believed Hurley, who entered the 2007 season as Lone Star Dugout's top prospect, had a chance at landing a big league call-up in September, but the Rangers instead chose to rest him after appearing in a career-high 162 innings. Hurley was understandably disappointed, but he knows what he has to do to get to the majors.
"I think anybody would be disappointed that they had to go home in September," said Hurley. "I felt like I played pretty well this year and I didn't get the opportunity. I just have to go out there and bust my tail in the offseason so I can get to spring training and try to make the team."
Hurley confident with changeup
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