Holland dials it up

CLINTON, IA - With a 6-0 record and a 2.92 ERA, left-hander Derek Holland has himself in position to shoot up the organization's prospect rankings this offseason. Lone Star Dugout spoke with the hurler about his most recent start and his development as a whole.

With a 6-0 record and a 2.92 ERA this season, left-handed pitcher Derek Holland is proving that his outstanding debut in 2007 was no fluke.

Holland continued his consistent ways on Monday by limiting the first place Beloit Snappers to three runs on six hits in seven innings. He struck out eight without issuing a walk.

"I just felt really good," said Holland after the start. "I had command of all three pitches, which is a plus. You don't get to do that very often, so I had to take advantage of that for the time that I had it. I just set the tempo, went, and had my teammates behind me."

There are a handful of reasons the former 25th round pick and draft-and-follow signee has had so much success early in his career. One of the main factors has been an increase of velocity.

Although Holland's fastball has consistently sat in the low-90s since being drafted, which is already above-average for a southpaw, it has begun to creep up lately.

"The only reason I know [about my velocity] is because Fabio [Castillo] and Kennil [Gomez] had come up to me and said something," Holland replied. "I was hitting 95 and sitting 93."

If the Rangers' team radar gun was fast on Monday, it wasn't fast by much. One scout's gun had Holland sitting between 92-94 mph with more than a handful of 93 and 94 mph fastballs.

Still, Holland says he is not all that concerned with velocity.

Holland warms up for Monday's start.
"To me it's really not about how hard you throw," he said, "it's just about getting everyone out."

The Wallace State College product attributes his extra velocity to his hard work since signing with the Rangers.

"I'm putting in a lot of hard work," Holland said. "In the weight room, I'm pushing myself more to the limit. To me, it's a lot different from college now because I have to really push myself. In college, you had your coaches doing it. Now I've got to really do everything on my own."

Holland pitched exceptionally well early in the game, blanking the Snappers for the first three innings. Even though he was cruising, 19-year-old catcher Jose Felix went to the mound to talk with Holland a handful of times.

"[Felix] was just telling me to make sure I stay back on my back leg," he said. "That's one of the things I need to really work on. He was just getting me to relax, to not be so tense. Some of the times he came out and the umpire got whacked and he was trying to mess around with me – to keep me in the game."

The 21-year-old says that when he stays on his back leg, it helps improve a few aspects of his game.

"Usually I rush to the plate," said Holland. "If I stay back on my back leg, it's keeping me back longer – not making my arm play catch-up. It helps with my offspeed too. It gives me more rotation on my slider and keeps everything back and aligned as well."

On Wednesday afternoon – two days after his last start – Holland threw his regularly scheduled bullpen session with pitching coach Danny Clark. It wasn't quite a normal side session, as LumberKings centerfielder Engel Beltre watched the pitcher from an imaginary left-handed batter's box.

Beltre works on timing with Scott Servais.
"It was more of just a thing for facing lefties and also to help out with Beltre, making sure he can see the ball and helping to improve with his stuff," Holland said. "Him and [Scott] Servais were working together on a couple of things."

Holland also used the time to work on a few things for himself.

"To me, it was just to keep pounding in on lefties," he said. "I've still developing my slider a little more. I've changed the grip a little bit. And throwing changeups to lefties."

Primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher in college, Holland has spent a great deal of time working on his slider since joining the Rangers' organization last summer.

"Everything is still the same," said Holland when asked about his new slider. "It is just a different grip. They wanted me to try out something different. It's a different grip, but I throw it just like a fastball. It has better rotation."

With his across-the-board dominance of the Midwest League, a second-half promotion would be on the minds of most players. That doesn't appear to be the case for Holland.

"To be honest with you, [a promotion] is really not on my mind," he said. "I'm just thinking about winning a championship here with Clinton. I came here, that's what I'm here for, and my goal is to help get a ring for these guys."

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