Rangers lefty Holland intent on forgetting injury past
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) Derek Holland has no interest in looking back after two injury-plagued seasons. Even before that subject comes up, the Texas Rangers left-hander does his best to divert the conversation.
''I know we're going to probably slowly try to somehow mention the last two years, but I'm going to make sure it doesn't happen,'' Holland said. ''The injuries are gone, we're worried about 2016, and I feel very confident and very happy with the way things are going.''
Now 29 and going into his eighth major league season, Holland's goal is the same that it has always been - to be the best left-hander. Not only on his team, which midway through last season added ace lefty Cole Hamels, but in all of baseball. Holland has no desire to be ''some mediocre guy.''
Holland has had flashes of brilliance with the Rangers. He threw 8 1-3 scoreless innings against St. Louis in Game 4 of the 2011 World Series after winning 16 games that regular season, had eight wins before the All-Star break in 2013 and has eight career shutouts, including three-hitter against Baltimore last August after his late-season return.
''We got a look at what he's capable of against Baltimore,'' manager Jeff Banister said before spring training opened. ''The big question for me is the consistency, seeing it every fifth day. He's ultra-aware of that. We've had conversations about it.''
There have been some shaky performances, along with the recent injuries.
After being tripped by his dog on the stairs of his home, Holland needed left knee surgery and missed most of the 2014 season. He was slowed by shoulder soreness last spring and then threw only one inning in the home opener before a shoulder injury that kept him out of the rotation for more than four months.
''I don't want to talk about it, because the more we talk about negative things, it's probably going to happen,'' he said.
Holland followed that impressive outing against the Orioles by allowing one run and three hits in eight innings at the Los Angeles Angels, but then gave up 21 runs in 22 innings his next four starts during a stretch when a liner struck the middle finger of his left hand. In Game 4 of the AL Division Series, three of Toronto's first eight batters homered while the Blue Jays scored six runs off him in two innings.
He has thrown only 95 2-3 innings in 16 regular-season games the past two years. In his first two starts this spring, he allowed only two unearned runs over 4 2-3 innings.
''The main thing is stay positive, always have the high hopes, keep your ceiling as high as you possibly can,'' Holland said. ''Obviously injuries have happened, and no, we're not going to continue to talk about it. But don't let that affect you, don't let it slow you down. ... Move forward and get yourself prepared for what's next.''
For Holland, that is going into what should be the prime of his career for the lefty the Rangers drafted in the 25th round 10 years ago this summer.
''Obviously I didn't pitch as well as I should have (at the end of last season), which I know that, and I'm well aware of it,'' he said. ''But the thing is, I got a lot of time away from baseball this offseason, to clear my mind, get myself where I need to be, and just stop putting all that stuff on me with the injury stuff.''