Opinion

Royals hope struggling closer Greg Holland can bounce back

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland (56) is relieved by manager Ned Yost in the ninth inning during Thursday's baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels on August 13, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland (56) is relieved by manager Ned Yost in the ninth inning during Thursday's baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels on August 13, 2015 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

A day after Royals closer Greg Holland combusted in the ninth inning against the Angels, allowing four runs without recording an out in his fourth blown save of the season, both manager Ned Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland expressed optimism about the struggling reliever’s prospects for regaining his All-Star form.

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost visits with the media on his confidence in the bullpen and keeping them sharp throughout the season.

Yost indicated he intended to try to use Holland more consistently, as Holland was battered by Los Angeles on Friday after not pitching for four days. Eiland mentioned that Holland needed to make some minor adjustments, but still urged calm.

“Everything hasn’t really fallen into place the way he’s wanted to,” Eiland said. “But he’s fine. I have absolutely zero concerns about him. I mean, there’s things I address with him all the time, just like the other 12 guys I have, that we’ve got to stay on top of. There were some things I saw last night, but I’m not going to publicly say what they are.”

Kansas City Royals Eric Hosmer says he has confidence in the bullpen. Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star

The organization hopes to fix the glitches quickly, because Holland is considered vital to the Royals’ postseason plans. The team rode Holland and fellow relievers Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera to the World Series last autumn. A year later, both Davis and Herrera remain effective. But Holland has regressed in alarming fashion.

The pounding on Friday bloated Holland’s ERA to 4.15. For the majority of the season, the Royals have used five other relievers along with Holland: Davis, Herrera, Ryan Madson, Luke Hochevar and Franklin Morales.

Among that group, Holland ranks sixth in ERA, sixth in fielding-independent ERA (3.42), sixth in WHIP (1.47), sixth in walk rate (5.45) and sixth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.82). Holland has still saved 25 games, but he is a far cry from the pitcher he was from 2011 to 2014, when he posted a 1.86 ERA.

A survey of rival evaluators revealed a diagnosis that is both simple but troubling. With his fastball velocity reduced, Holland can no longer overpower batters at the plate. He has also struggled to throw strikes with his breaking ball, a reality that is common knowledge among his opponents. So he has become more prone to walks, while hitters can square up his fastball.

Yost sought a less alarming analysis. He stressed that Holland benefits from a steady workload, which keeps him fresh. In games this season with three days of rest of less, Holland has a 1.65 ERA. Otherwise, his ERA is 13.65. Yost would like to make sure Holland pitches at least once every three days.

“He’s more sharp that way,” Yost said.

Eiland intended to huddle with Holland before Friday’s game. This was not an abnormal situation, he explained.

“There’s a couple of minor adjustments that he needs to make,” Eiland said. “History shows with him: You mention it, we talk about it, boom, he picks it up right away.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4730 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @McCulloughStar. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.

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