The arrival of the Eric Hurley era is at hand.
Multiple local media sources, including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, are reporting that the Triple-A Oklahoma right-hander flew with the Texas Rangers to Kansas City, and will make his major league debut on Thursday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
The organization will refrain from formally purchasing his contract and adding him to the 40-man roster until later this week.
Hurley, 22, compiled a 2-5 record and 5.30 ERA over 74.2 innings with the RedHawks this season before word of his imminent promotion leaked to the press. Though the overall body of work may not appear particularly impressive for the hurler many argue to be the club's top pitching prospect, there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Scout.com's Jason Cole reported two weeks ago that Hurley made a vital mechanical alteration to his delivery before his May 22nd start against the New Orleans Zephyrs at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City, which involved "bringing his hands over his head" during the windup process and "holding his hands a little higher in the leg kick," allowing him to attain better mechanical consistency.
Since instituting those changes, Hurley has scattered just eight earned runs on 26 hits and 10 walks over four starts, spanning a total of 27 innings -- good for a pleasing 2.67 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, in addition to 20 strikeouts. Scott Lucas traces Hurley's resurgence two starts further back in a fascinating statistical study of Hurley's mercurial 2008 campaign, ultimately suggesting that he's "a pitcher who's allowing too many homers but is no worse than average in other respects."
General manager Jon Daniels commented on Hurley's big league readiness on Monday:
"Our people feel like he's made steady progress, has been making adjustments, learning to pitch with his stuff," said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. "All young pitchers go through a period where they move from 'good arm' to 'good pitcher' and Eric's in that transition. We think he's deserving of an opportunity to help the club."
Of course, this tremendous opportunity for Hurley likely never would have come about if not for the unexpected departure of Sidney Ponson, who was designated for assignment last Friday after a series of "disrespectful and adverse reactions" that included his alleged involvement in a barroom disturbance in Tampa Bay on May 25th, an unbridled show of anger on the mound that was interpreted as showing up his teammates, and a particularly heated argument with manager Ron Washington.
But was there even more to the story?
Though the Hardline's Mike Rhyner (KTCK 1310 AM The Ticket) openly admitted that he had not talked to a single player or coach who would come out and say the following alleged incident indeed took place, "numerous people who might be in a position to know" about said incident reportedly indicated that Ponson unleashed a racial epithet towards one "Rangers official," whom Rhyner subtly implied to be manager Ron Washington.
Said Washington of Ponson on Saturday: "We'll survive. Did [Ponson's release] set the Minnesota Twins back? Did it set the Yankees back? He was pitching well ... but I don't miss him. The guy can pitch but it just didn't work out."
"I don't miss him." Between that remark and the unusually hostile show of solidarity assembled against Ponson by television commentators Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve during the opening innings of Friday evening's telecast, it doesn't take a tremendous leap of faith to think that the heated argument between Ponson and Washington may have escalated beyond mere baseball-related matters.
Moments after dropping that fascinating (but entirely unconfirmed) bombshell, Rhyner noted that shortstop Michael Young, who reportedly sustained a hairline fracture to the tip of his left ring finger after dropping a weighted "kettle" ball on it during Friday workouts, was purportedly involved in a "dust-up" with Ponson.
Both Evan Grant and Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News vehemently deny (here and here, respectively) that there is anything more to the story than what has been previously reported. And they may well be correct. In fact, there's an exceedingly strong likelihood they are correct.
But does that then mean that what Rhyner said has absolutely no basis in reality? Are both of these rumors then pure, unadulterated garbage, with not a semblance of fact embedded within? And if that is the case, then are these "numerous people" referenced by Rhyner all lying, misinformed, or some hybrid of the two?
I don't know. That's for you to decide.
And quite frankly, I'm not sure it really matters all that much anyway.