Gil LeBreton

All out of guesses on Texas Rangers left-hander Derek Holland

The pitching line for Derek Holland’s first spring start Thursday:

1 2/3 innings. Three hits allowed. No runs. One walk. One strikeout.

Of the 37 pitches he threw, 20 were strikes.

So you tell me. Was that good or bad? Efficient or untidy?

I can’t tell about Derek Holland anymore. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be seeing.

Is this the left-hander that was once the great, young pitching jewel of the Texas Rangers’ farm system, held in such high esteem that they refused to include him in a trade for Roy Halladay?

Or is this just a 29-year-old at a career crossroads, a guy who can’t remain healthy enough to stay on the mound, a kooky lefty who won 16 games in 2011 but has only started 15 the past two seasons?

You tell me.

“I thought it was a good job of getting in there and definitely attacking the hitters,” Holland himself assessed on a day when the Rangers went on to defeat the Kansas City Royals 10-0.

“Overall I felt good. I felt like off-speed was real good. I was very pleased with it. I’m very happy with the way it went.”

One of Holland’s attacking pitches was roped into center field by Mike Moustakas. Before the first inning was through, Holland had given up another hit, walked a minor leaguer named Brett Eibner to load the bases and been visited on the mound by new pitching coach Doug Brocail.

He gave up a leadoff hit in the second inning that was misplayed into a double by Lewis Brinson, but got the next two out before Brocail removed him.

“Holland was at his pitch limit,” manager Jeff Banister explained. “He’s working on some things.

“I like the fact that he was grinding away, trying to make some pitches, but he got to his pitch count.”

When a manager half-compliments a pitcher for “grinding,” he’s never describing a clean outing.

But, hey. It was Holland’s first start. What did we expect?

“It’s spring training,” Holland said with a shrug. “I’ll let you guys get caught up in the whole ‘how we pitched’ — whether it was so bad or whatever.’

“This is spring training. This is where we prepare ourselves for the regular season. I felt like I did a good job today with where I wanted to be.”

To be accurate, however, it wasn’t a precision performance, even though Holland made it a point to publicly disclaim any concern.

“It won’t bother me,” he said. “You can tell me I sucked. I get it.

“But it’s spring training. It’s where we’ve got to get all the kinks out and get everything where it needs to be. And we’ll be good.”

At age 29, Holland should be entering the prime of his major league career. After being injured in the 2015 home opener, however, he was out for four months.

As September neared, it appeared that Holland was recapturing his 2011 form — throwing a three-hit, no-walk shutout against the Orioles and defeating the Angels with an eight-inning, three-hit performance. But his next five regular-season starts were disappointing — 28-plus innings, 36 hits and 24 runs allowed, six home runs given up and a .327 batting average against.

Banister gave him another chance in the American League Division Series against the Blue Jays, and Holland flunked miserably. With a sellout home crowd pumped to watch the Rangers clinch the series, Holland was chased in the third inning, after giving up six runs and three home runs.

So you tell me. What should the Rangers expect of Derek Holland this time around?

Delicately, I asked Holland whether he felt he owed his team — and Rangers fans — something after being largely a no-show over the past two seasons.

“I get what you’re saying,” he answered. “Me personally, I’m saying I owe it to my team, my fans, everybody. I should be out there. I should be on that field.

“There shouldn’t be any of those negative things happening, with the injuries and stuff, though those are things I can’t control.

“Overall, my expectations are always going to be high. I’m going to continue to do everything I can to stay on that field and help my teammates.”

The guaranteed portion of the five-year, $28.5 million contract that Holland signed in 2012 ends after this season. The Rangers can either pick up Holland’s $11 million option or buy out the option year for $1.5 million.

You tell me what’s going to happen with Derek Holland.

I’m out of guesses.

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