Texas Rangers' King of Goof is very serious about pitching

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If perception is reality, then Derek Holland's baseball career should be circling down the nearest drain sometime very soon.

The Texas Rangers' left-hander, it seems, has become known for goofing around as much as his pitching.

He sports a mustache that still hasn't grown in despite his best attempts since last summer to produce one. That teenage upper-lip hair even has a Twitter account.

To make his appearance even more unsightly, Holland now proudly wears a business-up-front, party-in-the-back mullet.

He has also become notorious for his impersonation of Harry Caray, as inspired by Will Ferrell, and captured the attention of national sports networks for the weather segment he did last month on WFAA/Channel 8.

The image he has created doesn't fit a pitcher committed to sustained success in the big leagues, but those who are around Holland every day know that there are two sides to the Rangers' King of Goof.

The serious side, the one dedicated to his craft and his team, will be on display today as Holland works the first two innings in the Rangers' game against Kansas City.

He wants to show that there's a baseball player behind all those public antics.

"That's the thing people need to realize," Holland said. "I am a hard worker. I do everything I am supposed to do as hard as I possibly can. I want to feel at the end of the day that I've accomplished something.

"Just because I have a goofy personality doesn't mean I'm not serious. If I just do what I'm supposed to do, everything else will take care of itself."

Holland went 16-5 last year, rallying from a tough first half, and worked 8 1/3 scoreless innings in his only start of the World Series.

After struggling in his first few postseason starts, though, some in the organization believed that he was reveling too much in the attention his mustache was receiving nationally.

Even the day after the Rangers lost the World Series in a heartbreaker to St. Louis, the first question posed to Holland was about his facial hair.

"I know for a fact that if I have a bad outing, the first thing that's going to come out is, 'Derek's too busy being goofy,'" he said. "That shouldn't be it. It's because I didn't execute. It should never be anything about me goofing off."

To his credit, those who work with him each day see him working as hard as any other pitcher.

Pitching coach Mike Maddux, who first got his hands on Holland in 2009, said that it's been fun to see Holland develop as a pitcher and mature as a person.

"He likes to have fun, but he definitely takes things more seriously now than he did a few years ago," Maddux said. "It becomes a choice. How good do you want to be? That's a question that we all have to face. If you make a commitment, you have to make a commitment to yourself."

Said left-hander Matt Harrison: "I know this off-season barrage of appearances can seem like a distraction, but he definitely gets his work in and is prepared when he's on the mound."

Holland said that he's excited to get going today. His goal this spring is to work on his off-speed pitches and get a better hold on staying consistent.

He has learned more about his craft, something that picked up midway through last season when he became more dedicated to video analysis. That requires less goof, something he said is easy to put away.

And if he loses his grip on it, a reminder will never be too far away.

"I expect Holland to be Holland, and I expect him to go out and perform. Even with his antics," manager Ron Washington said. "Maturity will kick in and take care of that. If he does something that's out of kilter, we'll put him back in line. But the last thing we want is for anyone to be concerned about who they are."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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