Rangers’ Derek Holland faces ultimate time to shine

Posted Friday, Sep. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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When it became known that Nick Tepesch would be the Texas Rangers’ fifth starter in spring training, Derek Holland had one question for the soon-to-be rookie: Do you have a place to live yet?

Tepesch didn’t and Holland offered a spare room in his house. Tepesch jumped at the opportunity, and it’s been a nice living situation for each, although it may seem odd on the surface.

Holland is known for his goofiness and fancies himself as “the landlord.” His tenant, meanwhile, is known best for not showing too much emotion in any situation.

“It’s been great,” Tepesch said. “It’s good to have somebody to talk to who has been around and experienced a lot of things. There are just so many new things you encounter up here rather than in the minor leagues.”

Holland, 26, knows the difficulty of establishing yourself in the big leagues. His first four years were filled with flashes of great potential, but also inconsistency.

Now in his fifth season, left-hander Holland has developed into a more consistent starter by reaching the 200-innings pitched mark for the first time and will set a career-high in starts today with his 33rd.

With Matt Harrison making only two starts this season and Colby Lewis unable to overcome his injuries, Holland essentially became one of the leaders of the staff. Taking Tepesch under his wing is just one example.

“He has made significant progress,” manager Ron Washington said.

But Holland knows there is still room to grow, both on and off the field. He admits that he occasionally needs Washington or catcher A.J. Pierzynski to chew him out on the mound when he’s struggling.

Earlier this month, for instance, Holland spoke openly about failing to meet expectations in three consecutive starts. He lasted only 4 2/3 innings against Oakland on Sept. 2, then allowed eight runs (six earned) in his next start against the Angels and unraveled in a three-inning start against the A’s on Sept. 13.

“I don’t like to be babied,” Holland said. “If I don’t do something right, I don’t want to hear sympathy from anyone. If I [stunk], or if I was terrible, tell me. I don’t want a, ‘It’s OK, buddy. Go get them next time.’”

In has past two starts, Holland held the Rays to two runs over six innings on Sept. 18, and then threw a complete-game shutout against the Astros on Monday.

Holland’s start Saturday against the Angels has the Rangers fighting for their playoff lives.

“These games are huge,” said Holland, who departed before Friday’s game ended because of today’s 11:05 a.m. start.

“But I’ve got to stay the same as always. To me, it’s the same game whether it’s the first game of the season or a game that’s going to put us in the playoffs. I’ve just got to go out there and do my job.”

For the most part, Holland has done that consistently this year. He’s had better command of his fastball all season and believes he has improved in the mental part of the game.

It’s been a pivotal season for Holland, as Pierzynski can attest.

“He’s made huge strides this year and made himself a better pitcher,” Pierzynski said. “He still has a long ways to go, but I think he could end up being one of the better left-handed pitchers in baseball if he keeps going on the path he’s going.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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