Gil LeBreton

Rangers’ Holland rebounded after doing it his own way

Rangers pitcher Derek Holland gave up no runs on four hits and became the first Rangers starter to go five innings this spring.
Rangers pitcher Derek Holland gave up no runs on four hits and became the first Rangers starter to go five innings this spring. TNS

Derek Holland does impersonations. We’ve all, sometimes painfully, had to witness that.

But the lefty doesn’t do a David Price impression, and he doesn’t want to work on one.

Holland’s pitching line Wednesday, therefore, had to bring a collective sigh of relief to the men who run the Texas Rangers — five innings against the Chicago Cubs and no runs allowed.

The best part, Holland noted, was that he again felt like himself on the pitching mound. He threw what he wanted, not what somebody saw somebody else once do.

“I’m trying to be me,” Holland said in the Rangers clubhouse. “Everybody tries to get me to pitch like Cole [Hamels] or David Price. The thing is, I’ve got to be who I am.

“If I want to use more curveballs than sliders and rarely throw my changeup, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Holland didn’t name names. He said he didn’t want to elaborate on who was offering advice.

The only thing that matters, Holland kept saying, is that, “I pitch like myself.”

Hmm.

Everybody tries to get me to pitch like Cole [Hamels] or David Price. The thing is, I've got to be who I am.

Rangers pitcher Derek Holland

It has been obliquely suggested from various directions that the Rangers would like to see the left-hander throw his changeup more often. But apparently, Holland was hearing it as more than just a suggestion.

His two previous spring training starts had been viewed by some — not Derek — as disappointing. Against the Angels and Royals, he had pitched a combined 7  1/3 innings, allowed 14 base runners and three home runs.

Granted, the venue for the Kansas City start was the Alamodome, with its inviting right-field wall.

Derek Holland held the Cubs to four hits and struck out seven in five innings Wednesday as the Rangers won 5-0 at Surprise Stadium (Video by Stefan Stevenson/Star-Telegram).

That’s why Holland’s start against the Cubs was deemed as so important. And it’s why when Jeff Banister was asked Wednesday for his assessment of Holland’s performance, it was noteworthy that the manager labeled it “significant.”

“What we’re looking for from Derek is the ability to execute pitches,” Banister said. “I thought he threw the ball in very well, and I thought he used the outer half when he needed to. Also his breaking ball was sharp today, and there were some better changeups today than what we’d seen thus far in spring training.”

All in all, the manager said, Holland was “very efficient with all of his pitches.”

The Rangers need Holland to pitch like the 2011-13 one, not the injured part-time contributor of the past two seasons.

Think about it. In Banister’s first home game as Texas manager last season, Holland came up lame after one inning. He didn’t start again until Aug. 19. The 10 starts that followed were up and down, including a Game 4 implosion in the playoffs against Toronto when he allowed six runs and three homers in two innings.

Banister has every right to wonder what the real Derek Holland is like. He saw the real one only occasionally last season.

15 Number of Holland starts over the past two seasons

Holland didn’t seem comfortable this spring with the suggestion that he throw more changeups.

“I’ve had a lot of people try and tell me that this or that is what I should do,” Holland said. “I’m not listening to that anymore. I need to focus on myself and what I do.”

His velocity has been clocked recently in the 91-92 mph range. He can throw harder.

The best quote I heard was, ‘Be yourself, because everybody else is taken.’

Lefty Derek Holland

“I’m happy with that,” he said. “The velocity is going to pick up.

The thing I’m more happy about is the location.”

Holland reported that he threw only one changeup against the Cubs’ lineup.

“If I don’t have to use my changeup that much, that’s fine,” he said. “I’m not going to try to be something I’m not. I’m not going to pitch like David Price or Cole. I’m a different guy. I’m me.

“The best quote I heard was, ‘Be yourself, because everybody else is taken.’ 

There is no mystery, Holland feels, why his spring training performances have been receiving such scrutiny.

“If I’m getting people out, nobody’s going to say anything,” he said. “When you’re struggling, people are going to try to find a excuse.”

He doesn’t need any excuses, Derek Holland said.

After two years of injuries, he probably realizes that he won’t be allowed many.

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