Holliman Back in Touch with Arsenal

Mark Holliman has a simple reply when asked about the success of his last two starts for Class-A Daytona.

The 22-year-old Holliman, selected by the Cubs in the third round of last year's draft from Ole Miss, went seven innings on Tuesday night against Sarasota. He struck out a career-high 10, walked two and lowered his ERA to 3.50 through eight starts in the Florida State League this season.

Daytona won the game, 6-1, for their fourth consecutive victory to improve to 18-20. Holliman meanwhile upped his record to 2-3.

In a recent Q&A with the right-hander, Holliman told us that he'd been most comfortable throwing his slider pitch this season. What he didn't tell us was that he'd perhaps been throwing the pitch "too" comfortably.

"Tom Pratt, our pitching coach here at Daytona, he's really the reason why I'm succeeding right now and why I'm at where I'm at," Holliman acknowledged after his start Tuesday. "We've been working on incorporating my other pitches more, because I was going to my slider too much.

"Tonight, I jumped out by sticking with the fastball, curveball and changeup. Then the second time through the order, I went to the slider. I've worked in the curveball more lately and put in a lot of work with that."

The work has paid off. Holliman has gone seven innings in each of his last two starts, allowing just two earned runs and notching 16 strikeouts to five walks. He has held opposing batters to a .205 average this season.

Pratt, the veteran Daytona pitching coach who joined the Cubs' minor league staff in 1999, said he felt Holliman was given a lot to handle by pitching in Class High-A ball for his first professional assignment.

The Henderson, Tenn., native signed with the Cubs in late August of last year and was never assigned to a minor league affiliate since farm system play was coming to a close. Instead, Holliman went to the organization's Instructional League in Mesa, Ariz., in October.

"He's had so much handed out to him, and he's got to be mature enough to process it," Pratt recently said. "He is mature, but he's still pitching in his college mode right now. He's very polished, but he still needs to develop in order to pitch to professional hitters."

Holliman used a three-run third inning to his advantage on Tuesday. Daytona tallied nine hits, including three by their best hitter this season: Jake Fox.

Fox, like Holliman, was a third-round pick (in 2003). He fell only a home run shy of the cycle and drove in three runs. He leads the farm system with 10 homers and has a team-best 29 RBIs and 20 extra base hits this season.

"When your team jumps out to a nice lead, it makes things very easy on you," Holliman said. "(Catcher) Alan Rick and I were on the same page all night as far as pitch selection. That also helps ... when you're basically following his lead."

In Des Moines, Iowa pitching stymied Salt Lake for the second straight night. The I-Cubs closed out the four-game series with a 4-1 win following their 6-0 shutout on Monday. Starter Les Walrond lowered his ERA to 2.15 in eight starts. He threw six innings of one-run, five-hit ball in a no-decision and has a 1.80 ERA in 25 innings this month.

In relief, David Aardsma threw his fifth straight scoreless outing and lowered his ERA to 0.56 in 11 appearances with the Triple-A club. Since coming back from Chicago, he has allowed just two hits in his last five appearances.

Felix Pie picked up his third two-hit game in the past week to hit safely in five of his last six games. The organization's top prospect is batting .275 overall and .242 since May began. Incidentally, in the five games he has played in right field, Pie is batting .045 (1-for-22).

In Montgomery, Ala., West Tenn lost a five-run lead and a 9-7 game despite Luis Montanez's continued hot hitting. The recent winner of the BC Powder Southern League Hitter of the Week Award hit his second home run and drove in four runs while making it 12 of the last 13 games with at least one hit. He is batting .369 on the year, including .452 (28-for-62) in May. Statistically, it's the best month of his professional career.

Randy Wells let loose following a pair of shortened starts after coming off the DL earlier this month. He went six innings and allowed one earned run and three hits. Wells struck out five to help lower his ERA to 1.59. Bobby Brownlie dropped his second decision since joining the Double-A club from Iowa and is now 0-5 with a combined 10.89 ERA in 19 innings this year.

In Peoria, the Chiefs managed just five hits in a 6-1 loss to West Michigan. Two of those hits were provided by the team's best hitter for average (minimum 100 at-bats) this season: Ryan Norwood. He extended his hitting streak to six games with hits in all but three of his 14 starts this month.

On the hill, Scott Taylor allowed four runs but only two earned en route to his second loss. He gave up a season-high seven hits in six innings, notching four strikeouts and walking one. The Cubs' 2005 fifth-round draft pick from Hermitage High School in Virginia yielded his first home run of the season and just his second walk to bring his ERA to 2.08 through four starts.

Northsiders Report Top Stories