Early-season weather in the Midwest League can be unforgiving. Temperatures often reach below-freezing levels, sometimes even leading to snow and ice.
"I was told [the weather] was in the low-40s, maybe upper-30s," said pitcher Derek Holland of Friday night's temperature. "It was very chilly."
But that did not seem to bother lefty Derek Holland, who hails from Ohio, as he made his 2008 debut with Single-A Clinton on Friday evening.
"I felt real good," said Holland. "I'm used to this kind of weather anyway being from the Midwest. It didn't bother me at all. I felt really good."
Holland needed 84 pitches to complete six innings, surrendering only one hit. He did not allow a run, did not walk a batter, and struck out nine. Holland was quick to credit the success to his strong fastball-changeup combination.
"I used my changeup a good bit to kind of get them off-balance," he said. "That played a huge role in making my fastball look a little bit faster than it was."
Because the lefty was so successful with just two pitches, he wasn't really forced to break out his third pitch – a 79-81 MPH slider.
"I didn't really use my slider at all," said the 21-year-old. "It was mainly me keeping them off-balance with my fastball and changeup and then I mixed in a couple of sliders. Everything was working pretty well. It was just one of those days."
While many young pitchers tend to work off their fastball and breaking ball, often times forgetting about the changeup, Holland works in the opposite direction. Holland says he typically doesn't flash his slider until it is necessary.
"That's a normal thing just to keep the hitters off-balance," replied Holland when asked about the heavy dose of fastballs and changeups, "so I stayed with fastball-changeup. That's usually my combo."
Although Holland only allowed one hit, there were three errors committed behind him in the game's first three innings. The young pitcher says he can't let a rough day from the defense get to his head.
"You really don't want to think about those things," Holland said. "You've got to understand that [the defense] will have those nights and you have got to do your best to fight through it. You have to show them it's not a big deal. You can always give them more ground balls to rebound from what they did."
This season is not Holland's first in the Rangers organization. A 25th round pick in the 2006 MLB Draft, Holland signed as a draft-and-follow prior to the 2007 draft. He debuted with short-season Spokane last summer, posting a 3.22 ERA while ranking second in the Northwest League with 83 strikeouts.
Since Holland has just 67 innings of professional experience, he has not been able to spend a lot of time with all of the organization's pitching coaches. One of those coordinators is Clinton pitching coach Danny Clark. Holland says Clark has helped him a bit, but they are still getting familiar with each other.
"[Danny Clark] has mainly helped me with my mechanics, like keeping my direction," said Holland. "He's making sure my direction stays the right way. We're not doing too much yet. He is kind of letting me go a little bit so he knows what he needs to work with. This is his first year with me."
Even though 2008 may be Holland's first full season, he has already been through a minor league playoff race. The southpaw missed out on the Northwest League playoffs last season, leaving him with just one goal for this year.
"I just want to carry this team to the playoffs," he said.
Holland thrives on brisk opening night
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