San Diego Dispatches: Hurt, Schmitt Make Strong Impressions on the MoundAt The Ballpark
SAN DIEGO — For three years, Kyle Hurt has been one of the most tantalizing prospects on the West Coast. Scouts have been enamored with his fastball that reaches into the mid-90s, a sharp-breaking slider and devastating pull-the-string changeup. But they have also had their concerns.
Scouts were out for every start the righthander made for Torrey Pines High School in 2017, but a knee injury set him back during his senior year and when he returned, he wasn’t initially as sharp as he had been during the prior summer when he looked like a potential first-day draft pick.
But Hurt put professional baseball off, choosing to honor his college commitment to Southern California and was immediately inserted into the Trojans’ weekend rotation. By the end of his first month of Division I baseball, Hurt had moved to the front of the rotation. In his initial start from the spot, he threw the first 7.2 innings of a combined no-hitter against Utah. But even that brilliant performance when he had an electric repertoire, hinted at Hurt’s bugaboo — his command. Hurt walked six on the day. He also walked six on two other occasions his freshman year. He walked at least two batters in every start and finished with 58 walks and nine hit batsmen in 81.1 innings while going 4-5, 4.76.
Hurt struggled as a draft-eligible sophomore last year and was relegated to the bullpen for a stretch. He was 0-6, 6.71 before finishing the season with a strong final month. He moved back into the rotation and won three of his last four starts, including victories over regional hosts Stanford and Oregon State. Hurt went 6.1 innings without a walk against the Cardinal and shut out the Beavers for seven innings, striking out nine in his final start. He lowered his season ERA by more than a run over the final month. It was another flash of the brilliance he possesses.
But consistency remained a concern, so Hurt set out to attack the issue during the offseason. Instead of returning to the Cape Cod League where he had pitched successfully the previous summer, Hurt stayed on campus at USC throughout the summer. He wanted to retool his body, so he sat down with the nutritionist and Trojans’ strength coach Josh Heidegger.
“I was a little bit overweight last year,” Hurt said. “I kind of wasn’t really caring about what I was putting in my body eating and stuff. We made a plan of what I was going to do the whole summer. I either lifted or did some sort of cardio every single day and really, really watched what I ate. I feel a lot better now just as like a whole and like my arm feels a lot stronger.
“Getting my body in the right shape was the best thing for me because I feel like I’ve always been able to pitch and compete, but just being making it consistent with my delivery every single time. Being in shape gives you kind of an edge of trying to just stay and throw strikes.”
A strengthened core can lead to consistent mechanics, but Hurt needed some mental conditioning as well and he got a new mantra to follow on the mound. Pitching coach Ted Silva, who was new head coach Jason Gill’s first hire, constantly reiterates to his charges to “pound the hole,” telling them to throw the ball through the small area between the ground and catcher’s rear when he’s squatting.
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