Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister stands in the dugout during the seventh inning of an opening day baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Monday, April 6, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Eric Risberg
April 09, 2015

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Derek Holland has started a World Series game at home for the Rangers, a gem in Game 4 in 2011. Now the left-hander gets a fresh start in the home opener for Texas.

After missing most of last season while rehabbing from left knee surgery, and then having some left shoulder soreness early this spring, Holland makes his 2015 debut Friday against the Houston Astros.

''I feel great. I'm ready to go. It's go time,'' Holland said. ''I did everything I needed to do in spring training. ... I'm happy. I feel very confident with all my off-speed pitches. Definitely with myself. I know where my head's at.''

Holland missed the first five months last season following knee surgery for an injury he suffered tripping over his dog on the stairs of his home. He went 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA over 37 innings in six games (five starts) in September.

''The main thing is I want to continue what I had last year and take that into the first game this year,'' he said.

Texas also plays its first home game for new manager Jeff Banister, who is 2-2 after the Rangers won 10-1 at Oakland on Thursday to wrap up a four-game series. Banister lost his managerial debut Monday, 8-0 to the Athletics, and got his first big league win the next night.

Like in the opener Monday, Banister will take the lineup card to home plate Friday. Otherwise, he said the coach with the ''hot hand'' will take out the card for each game, something he learned as bench coach the past four seasons in Pittsburgh for Clint Hurdle, a former Rangers hitting coach.

Houston, which lost two of three in its season-opening series and was almost no-hit by Cleveland on Thursday, will play its first road game for new manager A.J. Hinch. Right-hander Collin McHugh (11-9, AL rookie-best 2.73 ERA last season) is scheduled to start.

''Nobody's going to go in there taking them for granted, not us, not anybody in the league.'' McHugh said.

This is the first time the Rangers play Houston for their home opener. The Texas teams have been playing annually since 2001, first in interleague play until the Astros moved from the NL to the AL West in 2013.

''The biggest thing that changes is the familiarity. Us with them and them with us,'' Astros catcher Jason Castro said. ''We saw them a lot last year but the makeup of their team is a little different now. They've got their big guys back healthy so it will be a little different.''

That includes slugger Prince Fielder, who played only 42 games in his Texas debut last season before neck surgery. He is swinging free and easy (.333 through the first four games), healthy and enjoying the game again - and already earning praise from Banister for his leadership.

Houston was 11-8 in the in-state rivalry last season. The Rangers won 17 of 19 in 2013, the first year they were in the same division.

In that World Series start at home, Holland allowed two hits with seven strikeouts in 8 1-3 innings of a 4-0 win against the St. Louis Cardinals. He was then 22-16 in 62 games over the next two seasons before the stair mishap with his pooch in January 2014.

Holland went through a regular offseason after his strong showing to end last season. Without that shoulder soreness, he would have been a likely candidate to start the season opener after Yu Darvish had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery last month.

But that little delay set up the chance for Holland to throw the first pitch at home.

''I'm going to be a little excited,'' he said. ''It's kind of one of those things you live for.''

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AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley and Kristie Rieken contributed to this report.

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