Derek Holland has been a busy left-hander this spring, often on the go and frequently not at his locker inside the new-and-improved Texas Rangers clubhouse.
It’s all good, Holland assures. It’s spring training, when he actually has the time he needs to work on everything he wants. And he wants to work on a lot.
He’s tweaked his mechanics, and he’s watching video of that. He’s in the gym, where he’s no stranger during the regular season.
There’s plenty running through the head of the 29-year-old as he enters the last guaranteed year on his contract. Like any other player, he wants his season to be as perfect as he can make it and he’s his own worst critic.
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That has always been the case with Holland, who will shout into his glove after a bad inning or as he’s being removed from the game. After losses, Holland doesn’t make excuses and doesn’t take it easy on his self-evaluations.
Today, I’m satisfied with how it went, but there’s still things that I’m looking at that I need to improve. I’ve always got to pick myself apart. If I don’t, I’m not doing anything to help myself.
Rangers left-hander Derek Holland
Holland, though, isn’t interested in backing off. He said that the critiques drive him to be better, not drive him over the edge.
Yet, the Rangers don’t want to see him drive off that cliff, and want to make sure he is processing his evaluations the right way.
“It just depends on how capable you are at handling that self-talk,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We have to be critical of what we do. The appropriate self-evaluation is necessary. How we handle failures is probably the greatest factor there.
“The one thing that we can never do, we don’t get an opportunity to erase if from the record books. It’s there. It’s our history. What we can do is learn from those and move on and move past and get better.”
Banister said that he and Holland have spoken on the subject twice this spring, and Banister has had no issues with the way Holland has prepared. Though this is only Banister’s second camp observing Holland, he sees more intensity than in 2015.
Holland didn’t execute his first pitch of spring training, and showed his displeasure with his body language. Banister has seen a similar reaction from Holland after, for example, he was off with a throw during pitchers fielding practice.
Holland didn’t have much to complain about Tuesday at HoHoKam Stadium, where he tossed three innings and didn’t allow an earned run as the Rangers rolled past Oakland 10-3.
Nevertheless, Holland didn’t care for a two-out walk he issued. He restrained himself when umpires ruled that Nomar Mazara dropped a flyball in right field that would have ended the inning, even though Mazara insisted that the ball dropped to the warning track after he pulled it out of his glove with his throwing hand.
A run scored, and Holland then issued an RBI single. Both runs were unearned.
0 Earned runs allowed this spring by Derek Holland in 4 2/3 innings
“You can’t let things like that get to you,” Holland said. “It has been something that has happened in the past, but I know he was out there trying to make a play. You’ve still got to go make pitches.
“It is spring training, so I’m not going to get too caught up in it. Today, I’m satisfied with how it went, but there’s still things that I’m looking at that I need to improve. I’ve always got to pick myself apart. If I don’t, I’m not doing anything to help myself.”
Oakland made Holland throw strikes, especially in his first inning. He said that they weren’t offering at his off-speed pitches, so he attacked with his fastball in the second and third innings to get ahead in counts and then threw his off-speed pitches for strikes.
He was happy with his performance, his second outing of the spring, but had already identified things that need to be addressed — his off-speed pitches and zeroing in on the strike zone.
His most recent baseball memory is one he couldn’t forget for several weeks after the season. He was haunted by his Game 4 loss in the American League Division Series, and convinced himself that he’s the one who handed the season to Toronto.
Derek Holland has made only 15 starts the past two seasons because of injuries. He needed knee surgery in 2014 after an off-season fall and hurt his shoulder in the first inning of the 2015 home opener.
After two injury-riddled seasons, Holland believes now is not the time to stop with the harsh evaluations. A good season would make life easier on him and the Rangers, who don’t want to see him overburdened by his self-critiquing.
But those tough evaluations are going to continue.
“I’m not going to change that,” Holland said. “We’ve got to be tough on ourselves. When I look in the mirror, I want to be able to say I did my job. It’s been a rough two years for me, so I have to be tough on myself.”