If there's one team Derek Holland is almost assured to pitch well against in the majors, it has to be the Cleveland Indians.
The Newark, Ohio, native has always had success against his boyhood team. In fact, over his career, he's 3-0 with a complete game shutout, a 2.31 ERA, 31 strikeouts and 11 walks in 39 innings of work against the Indians.
So it was no surprise on Thursday to see Holland once again dominate the Indians, even if it was a Cactus League game, as he pitched four scoreless innings — ahead of the pace of the rest of the Rangers' starting pitchers in terms of workload since he is set to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.
Thursday's outing was Holland's last with the Rangers until after the U.S. team is finished with the tournament, which could be as late as March 19 if they made it to the championship game of the tournament. Holland is slated to Tuesday for Team USA against the Chicago White Sox in an exhibition before starting against Canada on March 10.
“My main focus is always being with [the Rangers],” Holland told The Dallas Morning News. “This is only a temporary leave. I get to represent the country, which is something you dream about, but at the same time, I remember that I’m playing [for the Rangers] at all times.”
Holland is undoubtedly the biggest "X-factor" in the Rangers' pitching staff, and one of the biggest keys to success on the entire team. The Rangers are hoping he can return to the form he saw over the second half of the 2011 season when he was one of the best pitchers in the game instead of his 2012 performance, which was marred by inconsistency and injuries.