Holland, who is pitching for the Chicago White Sox after spending his first eight seasons in the majors with the Rangers, faces his old team for the first time.
“It’s definitely going to be weird. It’s exciting though,” said Holland, who is 5-7 with a 4.26 ERA for the White Sox.
He faces fellow left-hander Cole Hamels. Although Hamels, 33, is just three years older than Holland, his postseason experience and success with the Phillies made him a valuable resource for Holland during their two seasons together in Texas.
“Just talked pitching since Day One. As a lefty, he’s a guy that we always looked up to,” Holland said. “How he carried himself. It’s something I wanted to do as well. I was getting as much knowledge out of him as I could.”
Holland keeps in touch with his old teammates and is relishing the idea of seeing them. He was on the field early Friday hoping to catch up with any Rangers out early.
“I just saw [Yu] Darvish, Martin [Perez] and Nick Martinez,” he said. “I’m sure some of them are going to yell at me to take them to lunch.”
He won’t be on the mound facing them, however. Most of the Rangers’ lineup will be in the batter’s box against him for the first time in their careers, including Andrus.
“I know it’ll be different. He knows everything about us, so it’s going to be a good matchup,” said Andrus, who was a teammate of Holland’s going back to Double A in 2008. “It’s going to be cool. He’s a great pitcher, especially when he’s got all his stuff going on. He’s a tough guy to hit.”
Although Andrus faced him a few times in spring training, the advantage goes to Holland, Rangers manager Jeff Banister said, because most of the lineup has never been in the box against him. One of the few that have, Adrian Beltre, homered in his lone at-bat against him on Sept. 13, 2009, when he was with the Mariners.
Andrus expects the friendship to survive the matchup, of course, but after the first at-bat all the weirdness and perhaps, the laughs, will dissipate.
“I’m going to try to get him as many times as I face him and I know he’s going to try to strike me out every time. I think that friendship can go past that,” he said. “He’s my friend, I love him, but during the game I want to get him every at-bat.”
Holland, who signed a $6 million deal with the White Sox in the off-season, has had an up and down first three months. Ten of his 15 games have been quality starts, the same number he had in 20 starts for the Rangers in ’16. But he’s allowed six earned runs or more in three of his five starts in June. His last outing on June 25, he held the A’s to a run over six innings.
“I’ve got a new change of scenery. It’s been awesome being here with Chicago,” said Holland, who said he’s a different pitcher now. “I’m using some more offspeed. I’m still working with my fastball, it’s just not as hard as it was when I was with Texas. It’s part of growing up and getting older and maturing, finding ways to get people out.”
Holland doesn’t think either side has an upper hand.
“It goes both ways. There’s no higher hand. There’s a lot of those guys and there’s just one of me, so I’ve got to do my job,” he said. “I know there will be some trash talk going back and forth in a friendly way. I’m excited to see these guys. I think it’ll be a fun series. Seeing all these guys it’s going to be hard to keep that straight face.”
At least until that first pitch.