Changes point Hurley in right direction

OKLAHOMA CITY - It has been a rocky start to the season for Eric Hurley, but the pitcher feels he may have turned a corner after spending a week with working with some of the organization's coaches. Lone Star Dugout focuses in on Hurley's last start and the adjustments that were made.

Through nine starts this season, Eric Hurley was off to the worst start of his career. The right-hander had recorded just one win – coming against the last-place Round Rock Express – while posting a 6.80 ERA in 47.2 innings.

With Rangers minor league pitching coordinator Rick Adair heading to town for the three-game series against New Orleans, the two – along with RedHawks pitching coach Andy Hawkins – decided it was time for some changes.

"I worked with Rick Adair and Hawk [Andy Hawkins] for the past six days," said Hurley. "They suggested that I change my delivery from the windup and the stretch."

Hurley changed his windup by bringing his hands over his head and holding his hands a little higher in the leg kick. Although he did it in high school, Hurley says it isn't exactly the same thing.

"A lot of [the windup] is the same [as high school]," he said after his start on Thursday. "I'm a little more crouched over, but it definitely feels better. You feel stronger like that. I went out there today and tried to repeat it as many times as I could and it worked out."

The pitcher's best start of the season thus far came just days after he made the mechanical adjustments. Hurley pitched seven innings against the New Orleans Zephyrs on Thursday, giving up no runs on six hits. He walked three – all in the first two innings – while striking out five.

Hurley believes the early control problems could be attributed to the learning process.

"I was just trying to feel my new delivery," replied Hurley. "Over my head, it's a different feel. You can throw as many bullpens as you want, but when you go on the field you're game speed. It took me a couple of innings to figure it out and find where my hands need to be from a stretch standpoint. Luckily enough I figured it out early."

By making the changes, the 22-year-old hopes to get his body in better position.

"We're trying to get my body in a little better position and to hold my form all the way down the hill," Hurley said. "It is something that I wanted to do and they were good with it. It kind of incorporated everything they were teaching me as well. Everybody likes it and it worked today, so I'm going to keep working on it."

Although Hurley was clearly outstanding on Thursday, he received some help from his defense, which turned a season-high four double plays. After the game, Hurley was quick to credit the guys behind him.

"These guys are the best group of guys that you could ask to play for," he said. "They hustle every play and everybody runs the ball out. The outfielders and the infielders, you can't say enough about them. Teagarden called a great game today. It was an all-around effort and a good game."

Hurley threw his fastball in the low-90s and seemed to only get stronger as the game progressed. But a large part of the prospect's success could be attributed to his offspeed stuff -- a slider and a vulcan changeup. Hurley was pleased with his ability to throw both pitches during the game.

"They were good," said Hurley of his slider and change. "The pitches were down in the zone. I worked down in the zone and got a lot more ground balls than I normally do. Right there that tells me that I'm doing something right – keep the ball out of the air."

The 2008 season's first half has been a turbulent one for Hurley, but if nothing else, it has taught him to stay strong and fight through the rough times.

"You've got to work through it," said Hurley. "You're not going to deal everywhere you go, in every league or every game. It's tough to stay mentally strong when you're not going good, but you find ways to do it because this is your job. There are a lot of motivators that have been around the past few weeks, so it has helped me a lot."

If Thursday's start was any indication, things may finally be looking up for the system's top prospect.

"It has been a grind," he said, "but some things needed to be changed and I definitely made some good adjustments."

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