Greg Holland’s role has changed, but he insists that’s the only thing that’s changed.
Holland, 26, picked up his first save as the Royals’ closer this season in Wednesday’s 5-2 win against the Indians. He previously worked high-pressure situations in the seventh and eighth innings for most of the year.
With closer Joakim Soria out for the year with an injury and his replacement, Jonathan Broxton, now pitching in Cincinnati after being traded, manager Ned Yost turned to Holland, the Royals pitcher of the month for July.
“It’s really no different,” Holland said. “I’ve pitched in some tough situations before. Ned’s done a good job with that the last two years with all of us down in the bullpen of getting in those tough situations so if something like happens where Soria gets hurt and Broxton gets traded, somebody’s going to step in.
“I’m confident that any of us can do it because we’ve been in those situations in the seventh and eighth innings.”
Holland got the nod because he most meets Yost’s criteria for a closer. Holland is 4-3 with a 3.54 ERA this season and has 56 strikeouts and 23 walks in 40 2/3 innings.
“I look for stuff, the ability to throw strikes and composure – mound makeup,” Yost said. “You need to be able to throw strikes first. I’ve seen closers who racked up huge saves (totals) because they threw strikes.
“You’ve got to be able to throw strikes first and have the mental makeup. That’s second. Stuff is actually third. I’ve seen guys with stuff who can’t close.”
Yost and Holland both said any of the Royals relievers could close –particularly Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera – but Yost said Holland “deserved the shot to be the closer.”
Holland closed out Wednesday with a one-two-three inning, but Royals Hall of Fame closer Jeff Montgomery said it’s in moments of failure that define closers.
“The most important thing for Greg Holland or anyone who’s given the opportunity is, how do you deal with it once you have some failure?” Montgomery said. “How do you bounce back? One term I’ve heard is you have to shower well because you have to be able to rinse it right off you.”
Francoeur close to returning
Yost said slumping outfielder Jeff Francoeur will return to the lineup against Texas on Friday after four days off.
Francoeur is 2 for his last 26 (.077) and hasn’t played since July 22 in an attempt to clear his head. In his place, Jarrod Dyson is 6 for 11 (.545) with three extra-base hits in four games.
When asked if he could envision a platoon situation between Francoeur and Dyson, Yost said it’s a possibility.
“The thing about this game is, in order to be successful, you have to be productive,” he said. “If the production is not there, then yeah, it could become a platoon situation. I don’t think we’re there yet.
“He’s a guy we counted on a lot for production this year, and I think this little bit of a break is going to help him get back. It’s not been from lack of trying, but the bottom line for all of us is we step on the field and we produce.”
Jeffress understands his opportunity
Recalled reliever Jeremy Jeffress understands what’s in front of him. The Royals have two months left in their season, and this is the time to find out what they have in the 24-year-old Jeffress.
“I’ve known that,” he said. “I can see that, but I’m not trying to worry about it too much.”
Instead, he said he’s worrying about the same things he worried about at Class AAA Omaha. Not getting too “amped up” and losing control of his fastball. Pitching for contact and location.
Basically, all of the things that he’s struggled with at times.
“You can get a little too amped up and try to blow people away instead of pitching to contact and not trying to do too much,” Jeffress said.
Jeffress also dropped his changeup and relies on his fastball and curveball now. “The fastball command got a little better and the (one) secondary pitch, that’s all I need now,” he said.
Early start time Saturday
The Royals will play at 5:10 p.m. Saturday against Texas as part of Faith and Family Night. The night will feature a postgame appearance and speech by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, a Christian who overcame substance abuse.