January 28, 2017

DENVER (AP) Greg Holland has no guess as to how hard he's throwing these days. All he knows is that his fastball feels lively again.

Ever so steadily, the right-handed reliever has been regaining the movement on his pitches as he recovers from reconstructive elbow surgery that kept him sidelined for all of last season.

Holland certainly showed enough to impress the Colorado Rockies, who officially signed him to a one-year, $7 million contract on Saturday. Holland's deal includes an additional $7 million in performance bonuses. He also has an option for 2018 that could become guaranteed.

''I feel really strong and the ball is jumping out of my hand like I'm used to,'' the 31-year-old Holland said. ''That's a good feeling.''

In early November at a workout, there were reports Holland was throwing in the neighborhood of 89-91 mph. It was a considerable gap from his customary 96-mph heater as the closer for Kansas City through most of 2014 and 2015, when the Royals made back-to-back trips to the World Series.

Holland said he was simply being cautious.

''I think people who know the game will tell you that me going out there in November and throwing 95, 96 probably wouldn't be the best choice for my career,'' said Holland, who injured his right elbow in late 2015 and sat out last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. ''I wasn't concerned with that. I wanted to showcase that I could still pitch, I could still locate my fastball. I wanted to showcase I was healthy and I did all those things.

''I was proud of myself for not going out there in front of a bunch of scouts, trying to see how hard I could throw it.''

Holland fully expects to be up to speed by spring training next month. He believes he can play a big role in bolstering a bullpen that blew 28 saves last season and had a dismal 5.10 ERA.

The Rockies are banking on that, too.

''Our ability to potentially add this type of impact arm, with the reputation and credibility he has ... it was a pretty easy decision,'' Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. ''He's in good shape. He's working hard. The ball is coming out of his hand well. If we execute the plan, help him get strong for April, everything is going to be great.''

To make room, the Rockies designated right-handed pitcher Eddie Butler for assignment. The 25-year-old Butler was drafted by Colorado in the first round in 2012.

It was a difficult decision because Butler is ''still a young guy with a good arm and good stuff,'' Bridich said.

Holland had quite a few suitors for his services on the mound. He chose the Rockies in part because of their powerful lineup, his love of the outdoors - he plans to do plenty of fishing and hiking in the mountains during off days - and his relationship with pitching coach Steve Foster, who was the bullpen coach in Kansas City from 2010-12 and the pitching coordinator until `14.

Before his injury, Holland was considered one of the most dominant closers in the game, posting a 1.21 ERA in 2013 and a 1.44 ERA in `14.

Over those two All-Star seasons, Holland converted 93 saves in 98 chances. Holland had a 3.83 ERA with 32 saves in `15 before he was shut down.

''I feel really healthy - healthier than I've felt in a long time,'' Holland said.

He's taken gradual steps with his rehab. His biggest mental hurdle came after he was allowed to throw. He'd been pitching with discomfort for a while and didn't know what to expect.

''There's a little bit of apprehension,'' he said. ''I got over that and then you tell yourself, `OK, take it slow. Don't let it rip just yet.'''

He's not sure what his role will be heading into spring training. The Rockies already have some closing options such as Adam Ottavino, who returned from Tommy John surgery last season.

''It doesn't matter,'' Holland said. ''I have one goal in sight: To win a World Series.''

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