Relief pitcher Greg Holland is finding life is not as rosy on the east side of Missouri.
The Royals open a three-game series Monday night in St. Louis, where Holland has learned that the home fans actually do boo their own.
Holland, who was a key part of the Royals’ two pennant-winning teams before suffering a season-ending arm injury in 2015, is having a rough time with the Cardinals.
Last year, Holland was an All-Star for the Rockies* but declined an option for the 2018 season (worth $15 million), then rejected Colorado’s qualifying offer (worth $17.4 million).
*You may recall that walk-off homer Eric Hosmer hit against Holland at Kauffman Stadium.
However, the off-season free-agent freeze apparently left Holland with few good options, so he signed a one-year, $14 million contract with St. Louis on opening day.
Holland joined the Cardinals just nine days later and had a horrific debut, walking four batters. Things haven’t gotten much better.
Holland is 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA, and he’s walked 14 with nine strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He has career worsts in WHIP (2.270), walks per nine innings (10.2) and strikeouts per nine innings (6.6).
Over the last eight appearances, Holland has a 10.50 ERA, an opponent batting average of .367, and he's issued six walks with three strikeouts in six innings. He’s also blown two saves, including in Saturday’s game against the Phillies as Holland gave up two runs in the eighth inning. That turned a 6-5 lead into a 7-6 loss.
When Cardinals manager Mike Matheny pulled Holland, boos rained down at Busch Stadium.
“I’m pretty sure they were booing me,” Holland told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We had a lead. I didn’t get it done. Hopefully, I’ll play long enough to get booed again at some point. I hope it’s just a long time from now.”
Matheny was on the MLB Radio Network on Sunday and admitted the Cardinals have “to go back to the drawing board” with Holland.
"Unfortunately we’re just having trouble getting Greg right,” Matheny said. “You see yesterday he gets two quick outs and it looks like Greg Holland. We are seeing a little bit livelier fastball, we’re seeing lots of bad swings on the slider. But then we get the two outs and there’s a walk and then a slider that doesn’t break as much, and the next thing you know, tie game, next thing you know, we’re down a run.
"Trying to put him in spots even where maybe it lines up with the lower part of the order, just to get him on a positive roll. Tried a number of things, and we're actually going to have to go back to the drawing board. Put him in some different situations and somebody else is going to have to pitch that significant seventh or eighth for us until we get Greg right.”
There are a couple of signs that Holland is not quite the same pitcher he was in Kansas City. According to Brooks Baseball, Holland’s four-seam fastball is 3 mph slower than in 2014 (down to 93.7 mph), and he’s throwing a slider more now (50.6 percent to 43.3 percent).
Holland, 32, told STLSportspage.com after Saturday’s loss that he’s struggled with his consistency.
“Two quick outs, I thought I was rolling,” Holland said. “Fall behind a guy and walk him and make a bad pitch on a two-strike count. That’s just the way it’s going for me. But if I’m putting myself in better situations, one bad pitch is a double and no runs are in. Got to limit the things I can control, and that’s putting guys on base for free especially with two outs and nobody on.
“Putting 15 good pitches together in a row has just kind of eluded me.”