SURPRISE, Ariz. — It sounds like an adolescent excuse:The dog ate Rangers pitcher Derek Holland’s season. Half of it, if nothing else.And let’s be real. If the Texas Rangers had a yearbook, the puckish Holland, of all people, would have been voted Most Likely to Trip Over His Dog and Require Knee Surgery.I mean, who else?He’s left-handed. He’s 27, but wears a 17-year-old’s mustache. On some nights, Holland can pitch like a Jon Lester or a Gio Gonzalez. But the next night he’ll be on TV, imitating Harry Caray.“There’s never going to be a day, I’ve come to realize, when people aren’t going to criticize me for having fun and being who I am,” Holland said last week. “But I’m going to show them. I’m going to show them that there’s more to me than just being the guy they see off the field.”When his dog Wrigley sent him tumbling down the stairs at his home two months ago, Holland saw it as opening a window. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to be back before the All-Star break,” he assured. “That’s almost as good as guaranteed. I feel like I’ll be back the first week of June.“And once I get back, I want to make a statement. I want people to see how serious I really take this, and how I really feel about being here and being a part of this team.”The delicate microfracture surgery to repair cartilage in his left knee was performed Jan. 10. But Holland has already arrived at spring training and can be seen playing pitch and catch. The Rangers’ stock answer to questions about Holland is that they hope to see him back on the mound around the All-Star break. The question marks surround the microfracture procedure, which takes time for the blood and bone marrow to create replacement cartilage. If sweat and physical therapy were the only cures, Holland might already be on a mound.Of course, all reports suggest that there was no more genial rehab patient than Holland at Dr. Keith Meister’s TMI Sports Medicine Clinic these past nine weeks. While doing his own daily four hours-plus of therapy, Holland apparently would cheer on the fellow patients and occasionally buy the entire room lunch.He would talk about his daily recovery adventures both in radio interviews and on Twitter. And there came the old rub.Rangers fans are quick to embrace suffering. When they see Holland giggling, playing a weatherman on TV, they don’t see the same suffering, the same concern they feel that his knee accident may very well have ruined the Rangers’ 2014 season.The pizza commercial was a prime example. Holland was contracted to film a lighthearted TV commercial for the Pie Five Pizza Company chain. He broke out his Harry Caray and Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions during the spot and in the funny outtakes that circulated afterward.How dare him, the sufferers said. “What am I supposed to do?” Holland said. “I have a personality. People have to deal with it. I’m not going to be some guy that doesn’t do anything. If I want to be funny, I’m going to be funny. But I take my job very seriously.”Holland, who was confined to crutches at the time, remained seated throughout the entire commercial. “Right,” he said. “They took care of that for me. I was sitting down. It’s not like I was out throwing the football around, doing routes.”He suffers, he assured. He realized the impact that his knee injury might have.“Yes,” he said. “Every day it got to the point where I was pretty depressed. I didn’t want to eat. I lost weight. I really didn’t want to do anything.“It’s frustrating. I worked my tail off to get where I was. I expected a big year for myself. I felt like this was going to be another steppingstone.“And then to have a freak accident happen and take you away from what’s going on. “The team we have here, we went out and got all these players, and now here I am mucking it up. It was just real hard to hear some people’s reactions.”Nine weeks after the surgery, however — nine weeks of genial rehab — Holland has shed his crutches and is throwing, if not running yet, in spring training.“I plan to get back and make a statement when I get back,” the lefty announced last week. Derek Holland was dead serious. He knows there’s an open window waiting.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton