Derek Holland had one stated goal in his return to the mound.
To show the Texas Rangers, and perhaps himself, that he’s back.
He did that and then some on Tuesday night against the Kansas City Royals.
The Rangers, ahem, lost 2-1 at Kauffman Stadium, despite Holland’s terrific outing, his first of 2014 after off-season knee surgery forced him to miss the first five months of the season.
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The 27-year-old left-hander not only showed he’s back, but he also showed that he’s as sharp as ever.
Holland, who became the Rangers’ 60th player used in 2014 — a major league record — held the Royals to a run on six hits over seven innings, his longest outing in the big leagues since a shutout against the Astros on Sept. 23, 2013.
“I’m happy with what I did,” said Holland, who struck out six and walked none. “There were a few big innings and I got out of it. [My defense] made some outstanding plays for me, backed me up, and I’ve got to tip my hat to those guys. It was a team effort big time and it’s a good way to start it off.”
It wasn’t just that Holland threw 105 pitches and was admirable in his return. He was as good as he’s ever been, manager Ron Washington said.
“It was great news to see Derek out there performing,” Washington said. “We’ve seen him that good before. It was nice [that] in his first time back he went out there and showed what we have to look forward to. He was fantastic.”
Holland’s return wasn’t without some tough moments. But even then, when he needed to make a pitch to get out of jams in the first, third, sixth and seventh innings he was able to command all four of his pitches.
He worked out of jams after leadoff doubles in the sixth and seventh, striking out one in the sixth and two in the seventh before inducing flyouts to end the inning.
“He used all four [pitches] effectively,” Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. “He commanded the baseball as well as I’ve seen. Glad to have him back.”
Holland credited rookie catcher Tomas Telis for calling a good game.
“I felt like everything was good, fastball to changeup,” Holland said. “I was able to put it where I wanted it. And I had really good communication with Telis. I have to give him a lot of credit as well. It’s not just me out there. We were on the same page.”
In the sixth, with the go-ahead run at third, Holland told Washington on the mound that he’d try to get Royals slugger Salvador Perez to go for some pitches out of the zone. If he didn’t chase, Holland would put him on and take his chances with the left-hitting Eric Hosmer. Perez flew out to left to end the inning.
“I didn’t want to give him anything good to hit,” Holland said. “To me that was huge. They had a runner on third to take the lead. I had an open base and I was trying to pitch around him, and if he was going to get himself out that’s what I wanted. That’s a tough, great hitter, great team over there.”
Michael Kirkman and Jon Edwards struggled in the eighth, when Kansas City scored the go-ahead run. Kirkman took the loss. Along with Holland, Kirkman and Edwards gave the Rangers 38 pitchers used in 2014, a major league record.