This was one of the most important starts in Derek Holland’s career, just as important as all those postseason and World Series starts.
The Rangers lefty returned from the disabled list Tuesday night in Cincinnati after missing time with left shoulder inflammation. So what could you expect from Holland, the good or the bad?
Actually, Holland looked good in his first start since landing on the D.L. in June. The first hitter he faced, speedy Reds centerfielder Billy Hamilton, lined a shot back to the mound, which Holland caught thanks to a quick reaction. Nice way to get the nerves in check.
After that he was on cruise control with his stuff and his pitch management. Holland’s fastball averaged in the low 90’s but he was able to change speeds effectively with his off-speed stuff, making his fastball look more intimidating. The movement on his pitches was impressive, with his stuff moving breaking low in the zone instead of hanging over the plate, an issue that has haunted Holland over the years.
The only negative was issuing the leadoff walk in the sixth that would later cost him as Joey Votto eventually cashed in with the RBI single. Holland worked out of the inning allowing only the one run. He finished with six innings in the books, allowing four hits with five strikeouts in the 3-0 loss to the Reds. Sure it was a loss, but the outing Holland turned in was nothing but positive for the Rangers.
Now one major concern when talking about Holland didn’t really involve health, at least not at first. It was consistency. In fact, inconsistency could possibly best explain Holland’s career in a Rangers uniform. He was a young lefty with “ace” written all over him. But there was the feeling that Holland didn’t take things seriously. How many talks do you remember seeing former manager Ron Washington give to Holland, both on the mound and in the dugout?
It seemed like Holland was turning the page and ready to become the dominant lefty everyone felt he could be. But then the injury issues started creeping up. He missed part of the 2014 season after tearing his knee playing with his dog. Then in 2015, Holland suffered a shoulder injury at the beginning of the season. He worked his way back just in time for the Rangers postseason run, but could never really get on track.
Its déjà vu for Holland as he now finds himself in the same situation this season with the Rangers on another postseason run and a trip to the World Series within site, which brings us back to Tuesday night against the Reds. The Rangers staff is currently Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. That’s about it. Martin Perez and A.J. Griffin have struggled following suite. The fifth spot has be a revolving door all season long.
Texas desperately needs Holland to come back strong and provide some solid pitching behind both Hamels and Darvish because, frankly, the Rangers haven’t gotten that all season. It’s hard to win in the playoffs with just two pitchers. Not impossible, but very hard.
But there’s more incentive for Holland to finish up strong. The Rangers hold an option on him for next season, at a salary of $11 million. You wonder if they are willing to roll the dice and pick up that option on a pitcher who’s fought injuries the past three seasons, along with the inconsistency.
Holland will now have to put on a show from here on out. Tuesday night was a step in the right direction.