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Tag:Derek Holland
Posted on: March 9, 2011 9:20 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 12:46 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/9: Holland emerges for Rangers

HarangBy Evan Brunell

3 UP

1. LF Alex Gordon, KC: 3 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 2 RBI. Gordon really needed this game, as a 3-for-3 night lifted his average to just .263. Already termed a bust, Gordon is likely on his final shot to contribute to the Royals. Heck, K.C. would take simply being an average contributor. In the same game, Lance Zawadski went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI and one run scored. He's a Triple-A player who got a cup of coffee with the Padres last season. Why is this mentioned? Because Zawadski was my double-play partner in high school. Rubbing shoulders with greatness, I am.

2. SP Javier Vazquez, FLA: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. Vazquez is looking to reclaim his status as one of the better pitchers in the game after his second turn as a Yankee was just as bad as his first. It's too early to speculate on his velocity, but the early results have to be promising for the Marlins who could be a sleeper in the NL East.

3. SP Derek Holland, TEX: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K. Holland certainly vaulted himself into being a favorite to win the No. 4 rotation spot in Texas with this outing. Reports had Holland looking electric, and he may be ready to fulfill his top prospect billing.

3 DOWN

1. SP Aaron Harang, SD: 3 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. Yuck. Harang (pictured) got blasted against his former team who dressed just one projected starter in Brandon Phillips, making this outing all the more worse. Harang felt he was simply too nervous. "You kind of want to go out there and do well against your old team," Harang told the Associated Press. "I guess I look at it that it's better to get it out of the way down here than having it happen the first time throwing against them during the season." At least, Harang hopes that's the reason. The Padres, too.

2. SP Scott Kazmir, LAA: 3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 1 K. "What's Kaz doing here if he didn't give up any earned runs?" you ask. Did you happen to notice he coughed up nine baserunners in three innings? Kazmir also contributed an error when attempting a pickoff. The Angels will be very impatient with Kazmir after being nothing but a bust since the trade with Tampa Bay. The lefty says he's close to a breakthrough after simplifying his delivery. For his sake, we hope so.

3. 1B Miguel Cabrera, DET: 3 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 2 K. Cabrera was in the news Wednesday for all the wrong reasons as details emerged about the night of Feb. 16, when it was exposed to the world that Miggy still had a drinking problem. It's been three weeks since the incident and Cabrera is apparently in the best shape of his life, but he's still hitting .174 on the spring. But remember: spring statistics aren't worth the pixels on the computer screen.

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:50 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 8:40 pm
 

Feliz to close; rotation fallout in Texas

By Evan Brunell

FelizOn Wednesday, the Rangers will throw Neftali Feliz into a spring training game expecting three innings out of the hurler. However, Feliz won't be putting in his work at the start of the game as is common for those who aspire to make the starting rotation. Instead, Feliz will be covering the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Why is that?

"I don't think I have to tell you why we're doing that," manager Ron Washington told MLB.com.

And so comes to a close -- well, almost -- on the experiment to make Feliz (pictured) a starter. While nothing is official, all signs are pointing to the AL Rookie of the Year continuing in the role that saw him nail down 40 saves in Texas' run to the AL pennant last season. While Feliz was open to returning to the rotation, he made clear to team president Nolan Ryan and the media that he was simply more comfortable remaining as closer simply due to his familiarity with the role. While Feliz came up through the minors as a starter, his success at the major league level has been out of the bullpen and he has certainly delivered. But Feliz will continue to pitch multiple innings in spring training to work on his slider and changeup in an attempt to diversify beyond simply a wicked fastball.

"We're going to keep him stretched out so he can use all his pitches," Washington said.

Meanwhile, the absence of Feliz means there are now seven candidates for three spots in the rotation, and that's not even counting the injured Scott Feldman and Brandon Webb. Feldman had surgery in the offseason to repair a microfracture in his right knee but is not expected to be ready to pitch at the major league level until well into May, if not longer. Webb, meanwhile, has a rotation spot waiting for him but the Rangers feel the former Cy Young Award winner won't be ready for Opening Day.

"He's progressing," Washington said. "That's a good step forward. We went from long toss to bullpen to throwing live BP. Depending on how that goes, we'll set a plan from there."

Even if Webb isn't ready when time to line up along the foul lines and be introduced to the crowds, he shouldn't be that far behind, which only puts added pressure on the other candidates to step up their game.

Of the remaining candidates, top prospect Tanner Scheppers (ranked No 77. on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects) profiles as a reliever long-term and is currently battling back stiffness, while Feliz's compatriot in the bullpen, Alexi Ogando, is gamely trying to win a rotation spot but is likely to return to his setup role. Dave Bush, the former Brewer, is in camp hoping for a rotation spot along with prospect Michael Kirkman, a lefty who had 14 relief appearances for Texas last season and could reprise that role in 2011.

Related

Tommy Hunter appears to be the one candidate with the best shot at a gig as he posted a 3.73 ERA (4.70 xFIP) in 128 innings over 22 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen. Hunter also posted similar statistics in his 19-start stint with the Rangers in 2009. 

The other favorites are Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. Holland is a former top prospect who has not yet locked down a permanent spot in the rotation but could be the club's best pitcher by year's end. The 24-year-old had a 4.08 ERA (4.40 xFIP) in 10 starts and four relief appearances for the Rangers and also appeared on the postseason roster along with Hunter. The lefty will start Wednesday in Feliz's place.

Harrison, meanwhile, has impressed early in camp. However, his peripherals don't come close to what Holland can put up and the club used him almost exclusively in relief last season with six starts and 31 bullpen appearances.

One has to imagine that Hunter and Holland will occupy the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in the rotation, respectively, with Bush and Harrison battling for the final spot that will eventually be turned over to Webb. There is also thought to be a long-relief spot available which could go to the loser of the rotation sweepstakes.

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 1:50 pm
 

Messin' with Texas' starting rotation

Posted by Matt Snyder

The Texas Rangers won the American League pennant last season, yet on March 1, they have just two official members of their starting pitching staff. C.J. Wilson -- who one year ago was trying to convince his bosses he could start -- is the opening day starter. Colby Lewis -- who one year ago was returning to stateside from Japan -- is the number two.

Funny thing is, the Rangers could actually end up having a pretty solid rotation. There is a void at the top, sure. Wilson and Lewis seem more like middle-of-the-rotation guys at this point, which is why the team was ready to pay quite a bit to retain the services of Cliff Lee.

Obviously the team would be better off at present with Lee, but there's potential left on this staff.

Let's make an at least mildly realistic argument everything is going to come together, just to see how things could shake out -- meaning we aren't going to say Brandon Webb immediately returns to Cy Young form, but we will assume a lot of "ifs" pan out positively.

Wilson had a rough September, but you could argue he was just tiring. It was his first season in the bigs as a starting pitcher. He exceeded 200 innings after never having thrown more than 73 2/3 in a major league season. The last time he topped 100 innings in a professional season was 2005 (48 in the majors, 58 1/3 in the minors). Before September, he was 14-5 with a 2.88 ERA. Control was an issue all season and his 4.1 BB/9 was exactly the same as his career mark. However, getting his command in order is his top priority this spring. There's no pressure to make the rotation and, already being the opening day starter, he need not worry about anything else.

Lewis was a bit inconsistent, but finished real strong. He closed 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA in his last five starts. He carried that over into the playoffs by going 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts. This included dominating the Yankees twice. If he carries this over into 2011, he'll be a very capable second starter.

In the two, the Rangers have a pair of 200-inning guys with postseason experience, though neither is old.

Next, you have Webb. He hasn't thrown a major league pitch in almost two calendar years, but he was the best pitcher in the national league from 2006-2008, winning a Cy Young and finishing second the other two years. He has been building up arm strength without a setback so far this spring. He finally got on the mound and threw some pitches recently. It does appear he'll be an in-season addition to the rotation (via FOX Sports), rather than an opening day member, but that's OK. The Rangers are being realistic with him. By the end of the year, who's to say he can't be back to a quality major-league starter, even if he'll never be an ace again.

Now, a sleeper: Michael Kirkman. The 24-year-old left-hander sparkled in his stint for the Rangers last season, to the tune of a 1.65 ERA in 14 major-league appearances out of the bullpen. He accrued some postseason experience, too, though he was slightly touched up in one of his three outings. As a starter in triple-A last season, Kirkman was 13-3 with a 3.09 ERA -- which, in the Pacific Coast League, is quite the feat. He struck out 130 hitters in 131 innings and won the PCL pitcher of the year award. Pitching coach Mike Maddux sang Kirkman's praises on XM Radio Monday morning and Rangers brass seem to be favoring him for a spot at this point (Star-Telegram ).

Then the Rangers have Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter.

Harrison's fallen off in recent years without consistent starts, but he was once a solid prospect and is still only 25. With this group it's doubtful there will be room for him, but you never know.

Holland, 24, is a former top-35 prospect. He battled injury issues last season, but is healthy now. He was lights-out in triple-A last season, going 6-2 with a 1.87 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He looked good in the ALCS against the Yankees (0 ER in 5 2/3 innings). Further development this season could see Holland as a breakout starter.

Hunter has an ERA-plus of 115 over the past two seasons, which include 41 starts. He went 13-4 last season. He's only 24.

One of these guys could end up being the fifth-best starter for the Rangers come August, with the other two left out in the cold -- and we haven't even mentioned Neftali Feliz. Few pitchers in the league have a better arm than the 22-year-old fireballer. He was an All-Star and won Rookie of the Year last season as a closer, but the Rangers see him as a starter in the future. Is the future, here, April of 2011? It's possible. He's in the fight to make the rotation as of Tuesday.

What if the Rangers plug him in as a five? And then Wilson, Lewis, Webb, Kirkman and Feliz all pitch to their ceiling in 2011? Even if Feliz remains at closer -- which seems likely here -- either Holland or Hunter can easily be seen as a fine fifth rotation member.

So is the rotation of the Rangers really an issue? Did they really need to try and match the Phillies or Yankees for Cliff Lee?

Time will tell, but it's certainly not a lost cause in Texas. Not by any stretch. The uncertainty with the rotation could actually end up being an embarrassment of riches.

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Posted on: January 28, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Berkman bashes Rangers as 'average' team

BerkmanLance Berkman took to the airwaves Thursday, speaking on 1560 AM in Houston to explain why he chose the Cardinals over the Rangers when inking a contract. The 35-year-old opted for a one-year, $8 million pact with St. Louis to play right field as opposed to DHing and playing some outfield and first base for the Rangers.

So, why the Cardinals over the defending American League champions?

"I felt like if they didn't re-sign Cliff Lee that they were going to be an average team and I feel that's probably what's going to end up happening," Berkman said Thursday via ESPN.com. Berkman faced the Rangers in the ALCS as a member of the Yankees after coming over from the Houston Astros, where he had the best years of his career. "It's all about your pitching. I feel like last year was one of those special years where you kind of catch lightning in a bottle and they got hot and they had some guys that I felt like were pitching better than their talent level and consequently they had a great year."

Is Berkman just jealous that the Yankees fell to the Rangers?

 

Texas finished 2010 fifth overall in runs scored with 567 and followed that up with 636 runs allowed (not including unearned runs), good for 10th in all of baseball. That's pretty impressive for a squad known more for hitting than pitching. While Cliff Lee fronted the rotation, the other contributors were C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis, also getting starts from Tommy Hunter, Scott Feldman and Derek Holland among others.

Wilson had a successful conversion to the rotation after spending four years as a full-time reliever. He finished with a 3.35 ERA in 204 innings pitched and while he did pitch over his head according to his 4.20 xFIP, he also showed he's for real and can be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Wilson was backed up by Colby Lewis, a failed MLB starter who went to Japan, discovered how to pitch and returned to his old stomping grounds of Texas to post a 3.72 ERA in 201 innings -- and he looks for real.

It's behind the two pitchers where Texas may scrap. Scott Feldman did go 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA for Texas in 2009, but followed that up with a 5.48 ERA stinker in 22 starts and seven relief appearances. The jury is out on just what Feldman can provide, while Hunter threw together a 3.73 ERA in 22 starts. It's difficult to imagine Hunter as anything more than a No. 4 starter with a 4.50 ERA. But the saving grace could come from Derek Holland, just 24 and who contributed a 4.08 ERA in 10 starts and four relief appearances.

It's definitely a rotation with a lot of questions, but the Rangers have to feel confident going into the season that their offense, supplemented by new third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli can carry the load until the Rangers see how the rotation shakes out.

That doesn't mean to say Berkman is a Rangers hater. He cited that the opportunity to stay in his home state of Texas, playing in a park conducive to offense and knowing Nolan Ryan and bench coach Jake Moore as what drew him to Texas as an option -- until he looked closer.

Meanwhile, Wilson fired back on ESPN 103.3 FM in Dallas Friday.

"I think it's funny," Wilson said. "He was contemplating retirement, so I'm not going to take anything too seriously. I'm not going to get offended by anything he says. If that's a representative idea of what people around the league think, that's better for us because they're going to do the same thing and they're going to not take us seriously. If we end up stomping through the playoffs again, everyone will be like, 'Wow, what a bummer.' "

Wilson also addressed comments Berkman made about Adrian Beltre, whom Texas signed to a five-year, $80 million deal that has an option for another $16 million that should be easily exercised.

 

"They were itching to spend some money," Berkman said of acquiring Beltre. "I probably could have gotten the best deal out of them, especially in light of what they gave Adrian Beltre, which I think is pretty much of a reach for him."

Wilson begs to differ -- as he should, as Beltre should steal away some hits and turn them into outs.

 

 "Adrian Beltre is the best defensive third baseman in baseball, and he's a pretty good hitter as well," Wilson said. "I don't know if anyone knows he hit .340 last year, which is definitely better than .220. I'm pretty stoked about having him on my team."

For the record, Beltre hit .321 in what was one of the best seasons of his career, and Berkman hit .248. While Beltre was likely playing over his head, his defense is invaluable and should do well in the home park of the Rangers. Meanwhile, Berkman is struggling to avoid retirement.

"We have a lot of pride on our team," Wilson added. "We're very proud of what we've turned our team into. It's about the players and what we've done on the field. We've gotten better. Now the organization is somewhere and we have direction.

"If someone is going to slam us, that's going to be something. ... You hold little grudges like that. I hope the fans understand and when Lance comes to play at some point in Texas, I hope our fans boo."

The booing will have to wait, as the Cardinals are not slated to visit Texas in 2011.

 

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: January 23, 2011 12:39 pm
 

Feliz to work as a starter in spring

Neftali Feliz The Rangers lost out on Cliff Lee, but could be looking to add to their rotation from within -- looking at American League Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz to fill a spot in the rotation.

Or, at least they'll give him a look as a starter during spring training, Rangers manager Ron Washington tells the Boston Globe 's Nick Cafardo .

"As of right now, we're going to bring [Feliz] into camp and give him the opportunity to stretch himself out," Washington said. "And if he shows us he's better fitted with our ball club to start, then we'll go in that direction.

"If not, we know he can close ballgames and we're very happy with that."

If Feliz joins the rotation, the team would move Derek Holland back to the bullpen and either Frank Francisco or Alexi Ogando would close.

Team president Nolan Ryan said he doesn't know what will happen with Feliz.

"See how he handles it and see how his breaking ball and his changeup are, and then we'll make a decision" Ryan said at the team's Fan Fest on Saturday (via the Dallas Morning News ). "We're looking at that. Do I think it will happen this year? I don't know if it will or it won't. But it's something that we're going to look at. We think with his body type and the way he throws, as free and easy as he does, that he has the potential to be a very good major league starter. I can't tell you if it's going to happen this year."

Feliz, for his part, said he's open to whatever the team wants.

"If they ask me to be a starter, I'll be a starter," he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram . "If they want me to stay a closer, I'll stay a closer. I really had fun [last] year as a closer."

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: October 28, 2010 11:28 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2010 12:56 am
 

Amazing stats from S.F.

Ron Washington
Some quick notes after a second stunning result in San Francisco:

* The Rangers became the first team to walk four consecutive batters in a World Series game.

* The Giants have scored 20 runs in the first two games. They scored a total of 19 in six NLCS games against the Phillies, and the Rangers gave up a total of 19 in six ALCS games against the Yankees.

* The Giants have scored six-plus runs in an inning twice in two games. They did that five times the entire regular season.

* All 20 of the Giants' runs have come with two outs.

* Edgar Renteria drove in three runs in Game 2, something he didn't do the entire regular season.

* After two World Series appearances, Mark Lowe's ERA is 67.50.

Best lines of the night on Twitter as the mess was unfolding:

@mikeoz: Henceforth, Derek Holland will be known as "Walker, Texas Ranger."

@Ledger_Yankees: Taco Bell originally wanted Ron Washington in its commercial, but he refused to bring Feliz in, even after the kid ate his 15th chalupa.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: October 16, 2010 12:55 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2010 1:02 pm
 

Where was Feliz? Bullpen mismanagement costs game

Ron Washington During the Rangers' collapse Friday night that could haunt the franchise for years to come, manager Ron Washington burned through five pitchers in the eighth inning.

Not a one was Neftali Feliz, the 22-year-old closer that could have stemmed the tide. And yet, it's hard to argue against Washington's thought process in terms of bullpen machinations until tabbing Derek Holland, the fifth pitcher of the inning.

The skipper replaced starter C.J. Wilson with a runner on second and a man already across the plate. (One could argue replacing Wilson was the first screw-up.) He chose lefty Darren Oliver to face Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira in order to get them to hit from the right side of the plate. Good idea. Bad execution, as Oliver walked both batters. That meant Darren O'Day, a groundball specialist, was headed into the game to face Alex Rodriguez in the hopes of inducing a double play.

Good idea. Bad execution.

O'Day's first pitch was a groundball, technically -- a missile that skipped off the ground and ate Michael Young up for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There may have been a midnight snack.

Then, Clay Rapada, who had all of nine innings of experience with the Rangers this season, came on to try to nullify Robinson Cano who had bashed a home run the inning prior. Yet again a good idea, yet again bad execution. Another hit, and New York was still on the merry-go-round and a 5-1 Rangers lead had evaporated into a tie.

At that point, Washington was faced with three choices. One, he could bring in closer Neftali Feliz, who could at least keep the game tied. Two, Alexi Ogando, a right-hander who has been excellent in relief, could come on to face what would have been pinch-hitter Lance Berkman. Three, Washington could keep Rapada in the game or bring in Derek Holland to face Marcus Thames.

This is where Washington's choices fell apart.

Marcus Thames is a lefty killer and has been so his entire career. He has a career .264/.333/.505 line against lefties in 750 career at-bats. He was specifically brought to New York to act as a platoon player and face lefties.

Meanwhile, Berkman has struggled through a poor season and only snapped out of a funk. However, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News points out, Berkman is hitting .356 against right-handed pitching since Sept. 1, and that was the statistic Washington keyed in on and made him choose the Holland/Thames matchup.

"We really had to pick who we wanted to face," Washington said. "We got the matchup we wanted. They just beat us."

There is some doubt as to whether the matchup they got was what they wanted, as there's certainly plenty of reasons that Ogando or Feliz would have been able to neutralize Berkman. Simply looking at the ERAs and xFIPs of each pitcher shows that Holland was the worse of the three pitchers to head to the mound, and Holland did so against someone whose job is to hit left-handed pitching.

Feliz ended up never entering the game, and Washington says it's because the rookie has "never" been asked to get six outs in a game.

"He's never done anything like that," Washington told the Morning News . "I wouldn't do that. I had the people I wanted in the game. They didn't get it done. It happens."

"Never" is a strong word. It means Feliz has never gotten six outs in a game before.

So what happened April 21 and August 10 against the Red Sox and August 13 against these very Yankees? How about 2009, when Feliz joined the team in mid-August as a reliever? He got eight outs once, seven once, six outs six times (of course), five outs twice and four outs four times.

Yes, that was 2009. But he's done it in 2010 as well, against two of the more potent hitting teams, one of which was the opponent Friday night.

Feliz should have entered the game to face Lance Berkman at the latest, holding back Ogando and Holland for extra innings if needed. Given Holland was a starter, he would have been able to go multiple innings if needed. One could argue Feliz should have entered to face Alex Rodriguez.

Instead, he never did. And now Texas is down one game in the ALCS.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: September 20, 2010 7:56 pm
 

Holland hoping to pitch out of bullpen in October

Derek Holland Derek Holland is a starter, but for now his goal is the bullpen.

That's because Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter seem to have the four postseason rotation spots locked up. If Holland wants to get in on October action, he'll have to do so out of the bullpen.

And so that's what his mind will be on as he makes the final three starts of his 2010 season.

"That's the whole purpose for me now, to earn my spot in the playoffs," Holland told the Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram .

Holland has made three trips to the majors this season, checking in with an overall 4.12 ERA in eight starts and two bullpen appearances. Over 43 2/3 innings, he has 44 punchouts and 18 walks. The 23-year-old, considered one of the better young pitchers in the game, posted a 1.78 ERA over 12 starts on the farm.

"
I'm trying to show that I belong out there," Holland said of his performance as of late. He's done that so far since his third recall on August 28, posting a 2.40 ERA in 20 innings. It's a drastic difference from his 6.21 ERA in 2009, when he started 21 games and relieved in another 12 for 138 1/3 total innings.

He faces the Angels Monday night and will oppose ace Jered Weaver in a season where Holland seems to have taken the next step to being a big-leaguer.

 -- Evan Brunell

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