Eric Hurley steals day's pitching spotlight

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- On a day when two big hopefuls for the Texas Rangers rotation, Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland, started separate split-squad games and top prospect Tanner Scheppers also pitched, it was Eric Hurley who stole the show.

Hurley, who had not faced major-league hitters since July 2008, has had awful luck in past seasons, injuring a shoulder in 2008 and breaking a wrist that then wouldn't heal correctly. He even had to come off the mound early in camp because of a hamstring issue. But, he put it all behind him with a perfect two innings Thursday against the Cleveland Indians.

Following Feliz, who got out of jams in both innings he worked, Hurley barely broke a sweat. He needed just 21 pitches to end his day, tossing nine in the fourth, his second inning of work. After going to a full count to the first batter he faced, Hurley threw three pitches or fewer to four of the next five batters he faced. Four of the six outs came on ground balls.

"It's definitely a confidence boost to get out there and be able to work the ball down in the zone and show yourself you can get those hitters out again," Hurley said. "As I progressed in the game I started to get really comfortable on the mound and my pitches were working. I’ve worked really hard in live BPs [batting practice sessions] and sides [side throwing] to get this down and it paid off."

The right-hander can't be discounted for a spot in the starting rotation. The three lefties -- Holland, Michael Kirkman and Matt Harrison -- have garnered attention, as has top prospect Tanner Scheppers, but Hurley said he doesn't feel as though he's hovering under the radar.

At one time Hurley was the Rangers' top pitching prospect.

"He hit his spots, man, used the whole strike zone, hit his spots, changed speeds, moved it around. He did a good job," manager Ron Washington said. "It was nice for him to get out there on the mound and it was great for him personally because he's been working hard to get back to that point and he finally got out there and faced him some big-league hitters."