Curve LHP Hearn going home to Texas

Taylor Hearn grew up an hour away from Arlington, Texas, so if he makes it to the big leagues with the Rangers, the hard-throwing lefty will have the luxury of pitching for his hometown team.

“The biggest thing is my mom, she hasn’t seen me play in a while. I think this is the answer to her prayers,” Hearn told the Curve Radio Network on Tuesday, shortly after getting traded to Texas.

The Pirates dealt Hearn, one of the Eastern League’s best pitchers, and a player to be named later to the Rangers in the wee hours of the morning Tuesday for reliever Keone Kela. Hearn and the Curve had Monday off, and it took a little time to let the pitcher know about the trade.

“I found out at 2 o’clock (Tuesday) morning,” Hearn said. “I had a couple of missed calls from (Pirates farm director) Larry Broadway and ended up calling him back and finding out I was on the move to Texas.”

While the Pirates get back Texas’ closer — Kela had 24 saves this season and will be the Bucs’ new eighth-inning setup man — they gave away a promising pitcher in Hearn.

The 24-year-old throws in the upper 90s and was having a stellar season for the Curve. Hearn went just 3-6 but had a 3.12 ERA and was at or near the top of the EL in many categories, including:

n First in opponents’ batting average (.198) and strikeouts per nine innings (9.26)

n Tied for first in strikeouts (107) and complete games (2)

n Third in WHIP (1.09) and fewest baserunners per nine innings (10.04)

n Fourth in ERA (3.12)

Hearn also started the Eastern League All-Star Game for the Western Division.

The Pirates acquired Hearn in a 2016 trade with the Washington Nationals, a deal that also brought reliever Felipe Vazquez to Pittsburgh in exchange for reliever Mark Melancon.

“This organization has been really great to me,” Hearn said of the Pirates. “I’m definitely going to miss … a lot of people in this organization. It was a great place.”

There’s a question of whether Hearn’s long-term role will be as a starter or reliever, but he’s been so dominant at times this season for the Curve that the Rangers likely will give him every opportunity to develop as a starter.

If he does reach his potential, then Texas is getting one of the game’s most valuable commodities — a hard-throwing lefty — who has a chance to win 15-plus games per year at some point in the majors.

“I get to come back home and pitch in front of family and friends and hopefully make it to the big leagues with them,” said Hearn, who’s from Royse City, Texas.

Hearn’s departure is a huge blow to a Curve team that’s trying to win a second consecutive EL title. Altoona is in position to make the playoffs with five weeks to go, and Hearn could have been a major force down the stretch and in the postseason had he not been traded.

He can look back on his time in Altoona with great fondness, though, as he made big strides on and off the field.

“I’ve grown up a lot since I came up to Altoona,” Hearn said. “From the start of the season until now, I’m a completely different man. I can’t thank the Pirates enough for it.”