2017 MLB All-Star Game: Greg Holland's long road back to being an All-Star
Even back in November, Holland was not throwing very well in his return from Tommy John surgery
MIAMI -- Greg Holland being an All-Star doesn't sound much more than just familiar. One of baseball's best closers for a few years, Holland was twice an All-Star and finished in the top 10 of Cy Young voting in both of those seasons. He was an elite closer for the Royals in 2014 on their run to the World Series for the first time since 1985.
But it was what came in 2015 and 2016 that makes this trip to the Midsummer Classic for Holland extra special.
"I did take some time when I found out, with my wife," he said. "We sat down and talked about where I'd been in the past with the surgery and stuff, kind of reminisced a little bit."
"But, really, I'm still just worried about doing my job. I try to just take that stuff outta my mind."
Ah yes, the surgery and what Holland has been through.
Holland was the Greg Holland we all knew through June 9, 2015. He had closed down 11 of his 12 save chances and sported a 1.76 ERA. Things went south after that point, though. From his next outing through Sept. 18, Holland had a 4.91 ERA. Opposing hitters slashed .296/.383/.426 against him. Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that Holland needed to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar-collateral ligament in his throwing elbow.
Was there ever a doubt that Holland would return to form?
"I think the biggest thing is right before you go into surgery," he said. "I was more apprehensive then. Once it's after surgery, I play baseball and I'm highly competitive, it was more 'OK, what can I do today. What can I do tomorrow?' So I never really had any negative thoughts after surgery."
"You go through some spells. I had a pretty clean rehab, but there were some days where you're like, 'OK, was that normal soreness, is that like something I used to get?'"
"It's nice knowing what you're gonna get into before you get into it," he said of his former teammates. "To have that communication is good. You're gonna have days where it feels wrong, you're gonna have days where it feels great. You're gonna be throwing five mph slower than you were the day before. It's not just your elbow. It's your shoulder, it's your legs."
Obviously, Holland missed all of 2016, but he was preparing to pitch in 2017. In early November, he held a showcase for any interested MLB teams, as he was now a free agent. Many teams attended, but most reports indicated that scouts at the showcase were generally underwhelmed by Holland, particular with a lack of velocity.
He would end up signing a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the Rockies. Then it was time to start checking things off the list.
"There are certain steps," Holland said. "The first thing is facing hitters in spring training. Then it's facing hitters in spring training in a game. Then after that it was throwing back-to-back. You check those boxes off when you get there."
Right out of the gate, the start of the season, I threw in three of the first four games and I felt better on the fourth day than the December before. After you do it, you know you can. You know it's still there. I'm in a good spot now physically."
Boy, is he ever.
Heading into the All-Star break, Holland has an MLB-best 28 saves in 29 chances with a 1.62 ERA. He's back to holding down opposing lineups, to the tune of .162/.264/.259.
And he's back in the All-Star Game for a third time.
"I stay day-to-day and stay even-keel, so I don't try to get into it," Holland said of his long road back. "I think one day sitting at home I'll be able to appreciate this."
Hopefully. He deserves it.
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