Greg Holland didn't need many pitches to make a statement in his first appearance in a big league game yesterday, 18 months after his last professional inning.
In just 10 pitches, Holland retired the side to preserve a Rockies 5-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. In those pitches he recorded a strikeout, pounding the zone with both his fastball and offspeed pitches and allowing hard contact only on a pitch lined to center for an out.
"I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand good. And hitters will let you know, usually. I felt like my timing and rhythm were good," Holland said.
Though he keeps his outward demeanor understated, this was an important benchmark for the 31-year-old right-hander as he makes his return from Tommy John surgery. Likely to be named the Rockies' closer, it was a promising showing of results the team hopes Holland can carry into the regular season.
"Just pound the zone, get ahead," Holland said of his approach. "I felt like I commanded the ball pretty well."
Most notably, Holland exhibited a fastball sitting at 93 miles and hour and reaching up to 95, demonstrating that he is regaining the velocity that helped him to dominate as closer with the Royals. Just back in November, before signing with the Rockies, Holland threw fastballs in the 80's in a workout for team scouts that led to resistance from some teams to sign him, fearing his pre-surgery velocity wouldn't return.
There are those who believe his velocity is key to his success, so this should be good news for them.
But it wasn't pitch speed that excited Holland about his first appearance on the mound this spring. Rather, it was his comfort in locating both his fastball and off-speed pitches. Holland told catcher Jan Vazquez he wanted to throw a mix of his fastball, curve and slider.
"I told him I want to kind of mix it up, get a few of everything in, and I feel good I was able to do that," said Holland.
Like Holland, though encouraged by the outing, the team is keeping an eye on the larger process rather than the details.
"Whether it’s off the field competition or in Arizona playing baseball you get pumped up. I know Greg’s excited about this," said manager Bud Black. "He’s crossing bridges here in Arizona, and he’s feeling good physically. I think mentally he’s in a good spot. So, again, this is another step of him getting back to being a big-leaguer on a roster."
Black said Holland could make another appearance as soon as Saturday.