Rangers’ Derek Holland pushes himself to meet expectations

Posted Sunday, May. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Rangers at Mariners 3:10 p.m. today, FSSW

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Expectations have hounded Derek Holland since he made his major-league debut as a prized prospect in 2009.

But the expectations of Texas Rangers fans hoping he would develop into a front-of-the-rotation starter and help lift the franchise to new heights haven’t made for a heavy load.

No weight has been as burdensome as the expectations Holland has heaped on himself.

Take the numbers entering his start Saturday night at Safeco Field. He was 3-2 with a 3.30 ERA, numbers that are pretty darn good. Yet, he has been criticized more than he has been praised so far.

Maybe it’s his own doing, but he understands it. In fact, the perfectionist in him agrees with it.

“That’s fine. I like that,” Holland said. “It just goes to show that I can do better than that and I should be doing better than that. There are a lot of expectations on me, and I want to make sure that I meet them.”

He entered his 10th start having tossed seven innings with two or fewer runs in five of the first nine. He also had yet to yield a run in two career starts at Safeco Field.

But he was dogged by his last start — Sunday against Detroit. Miguel Cabrera connected for two home runs, including a solo shot that caused Holland to duck initially before carrying over the center-field wall.

The folks at ESPN found that fairly humorous.

“I ducked,” said Holland, who has 31 wins the past two-plus seasons. “I did. It was instinct.”

But the Cabrera blasts — he would hit a third later in the game against Tanner Scheppers — didn’t bother Holland as much as the three walks he issued to reserve outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo.

The third free pass forced Holland from the game after 4 2/3 innings and 106 pitches. It also gave him something to work on between starts — throwing more strikes.

“I didn’t even give the guy the chance to swing the bat,” Holland said. “He could have gone up there without a bat. I’m disappointed with those walks more than anything. That’s always been one of my pet peeves.”

Manager Ron Washington thought Holland pitched well enough, allowing only the four runs produced by Cabrera’s homers. He expected Holland to pitch deep into the game Saturday night.

“If you take Cabrera out of that lineup, and Holland might have got to the seventh,” Washington said. “Cabrera was the difference. I thought [Holland] attacked and threw well, but he couldn’t get past Cabrera.”

Holland opened Saturday with four strikeouts in his first two innings and held a 3-0 lead thanks to an RBI single by Jurickson Profar and a two-run double by David Murphy in a three-run second inning against Felix Hernandez.

But Holland issued a one-out walk in the third to Jason Bay, who would eventually score on a two-run double by Kendrys Morales after an error by Elvis Andrus on a Michael Morse grounder that should have ended the inning.

Holland couldn’t strike out Morse, who fouled off three two-strike pitches during an extended at-bat, and the Morales hit off the right-field wall came on a two-strike pitch.

It apparently gave Holland something else to work on between innings to meet his standards. He came back with a perfect fourth inning, in which he struck out the side, and he struck out two more in the fifth to preserve a 4-2 lead.

Holland, though, isn’t perfect. No pitcher is over the course of a season, but that’s always the goal for the Rangers’ left-handed perfectionist.

“I’m trying to be,” he said. “You’re your own worst critic, and I’m always all over myself for things. No matter what, I’m never really satisfied with the way I pitch. I always feel like there’s something I can do better.”

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson

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