Greg Holland dealing with ‘cranky’ arm as Royals give him rest

Royals closer Greg Holland is having his least-effective big-league season, with a 3.55 ERA
Royals closer Greg Holland is having his least-effective big-league season, with a 3.55 ERA JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

After throwing eight pitches to collect a one-out save on Saturday, Royals closer Greg Holland was unavailable for Sunday’s save situation at Fenway Park. He pitched just twice on his team’s most recent six-game road trip, as manager Ned Yost indicated Holland’s right elbow and shoulder felt “cranky,” marked by soreness and stiffness.

Fellow reliever Ryan Madson is experiencing a similar condition, Yost explained. The manager sought to downplay the situation.

“They all deal with something,” Yost said before Monday’s series opener against the Orioles. “See the way this thing works — and it’s strange to you guys, but it’s normal to us — is that these guys know their bodies. They know what they can pitch through. And with a big lead, they’re not going to push everything.”

So Yost turned to Wade Davis for Sunday’s ninth inning against the Red Sox. The organization trusts Holland to know when he requires rest and when he is able to pitch, even in this, his least-effective big-league season, with his 3.55 ERA.

On Saturday evening, with the Royals protecting a four-run lead heading into the ninth, pitching coach Dave Eiland called down to the bullpen to check on Holland’s availability. Holland told the coaches he did not want to pitch unless it was a save situation. He sought an extra day to rest his arm.

“In case we needed him the next day,” Yost said. “As soon as it became a save (situation), he came in.”

Holland replaced Herrera with two on and two out. He gave up an RBI single to outfielder Rusney Castillo. He walked slugger David Ortiz. Then first baseman Travis Shaw popped up the first pitch of the game’s final at-bat to allow Holland to record his 28th save.

Holland has blown four save chances this season. After the most recent one, a four-run disaster against the Angels on Aug. 13, Yost vowed to try to find Holland more steady work. But Holland’s physical uncertainty has prevented that.

Holland has already spent time on the disabled list this season with a strained pectoral muscle. His fastball velocity has dipped about two MPH. Yet Yost continued to stress calm about his closer.

“When they’re not available, it doesn’t send up huge, red warning flags,” Yost said. “It’s normal for us.”

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.