Securing a lot of offseason talent this year, Greg Holland was perhaps the best move the Colorado Rockies could have made in improving their once-suffering bullpen. After missing an entire season following Tommy John surgery, Holland is now healthy and has found new life in his career.
From the start of his Major League days, Holland has been a force out of the bullpen. Over a span of seven seasons dating back to 2010 with the Kansas City Royals, Holland has amassed a 2.39 ERA.
When he got the news that he needed to undergo the knife two years ago, that success threatened to halt that momentum in its tracks.
“It’s tough, but it’s kind of part of the game,” Holland said. “It’s Major League Baseball, so it’s not a concern. It’s just one of those things that you have to accept and move forward, do those things that you have to do in a timely manner. There are always times in the entire year when you miss the game and you want to be out there, but having a family and a good support staff helps that along.”
His time on the shelf last season didn’t mess with his head as much as he expected.
“I think there’s always a little bit of doubt when something like that happens, but for me mentally, I got past that,” Holland said. “Once I got out of my sling and started getting able to do stuff as far as a therapy standpoint and a recovery standpoint, my main focus was to get back to that level in whatever way I could.”
So far in his brief time in a Rockies uniform, Holland has excelled beyond belief–almost as if he had never been injured in the first place. In four innings across four different games, Holland has earned four saves and has yet to give up a run.
The quick immersion back into the full swing of the regular season, he said, has helped top off his road back to the mound, as he works himself back into the daily grind.
“The biggest thing for me, personally having not played last year, was getting in the flow of everyday activity,” Holland said. “I got my feet wet really quick this week, throwing the first two games of the season, so my body responded well for that. I think towards the end of spring training, I started to get over the hump of throwing on short rests and stuff. The amount of times I’m on the mound, I got better from a recovery standpoint.”
Coming off his contract at Kansas City last year, Holland was courted by a number of teams, including the Washington Nationals. But for him, there was just something about this Mile High team that garnered his attention.
“I think they have a team that can compete for the World Series,” Holland said of his new squad. “They have a great lineup, great defense to go with it. Those are things as a relief pitcher—or any pitcher, for that matter—you want, a team that can score runs and keep people from scoring. I think the makeup top-to-bottom is really good, and I think the bullpen is going to rebound and have a good year this year.”
That, of course, would be a complete turnaround from last season, during which the bullpen struggled to find consistency and more often than not cost the Rockies games. Holland believes that after getting a year in the Majors under their belts, these relievers are ready to take on any challenge.
“I think the understanding after talking to Darren Holmes and Buddy Black and Steve Foster about it was to make some improvements and get it done,” Holland said. “When you look at the makeup of the bullpen, there’s a lot of electric arms. They were really young last year, and now they have a lot of experience.
“For me, it wasn’t about ‘Hey, I’m going to go teach these kids how to pitch.’ It’s about seeing the opportunity to see them turn into Major League Baseball players. I think the more times we go out there as a unit, the better we’re going to get at understanding the game. I think we’re really dynamic when you look at everyone individually.”
So far this year, the Colorado bullpen has been rocking, and has helped boost the Rockies to a 5-3 record over the first week, but these guys have to stay on their toes if they hope to continue the momentum that’s carried them this far.
“It’s been good, but it’s a long season so we got to stay focused,” Holland said. “I know it’s a generic kind of answer, but there’s going to be times where I don’t care how good your bullpen is or how good the starting staff is, you’re going to struggle collectively, but if you’re doing the right things on a daily basis, you shorten that time frame where you do struggle as a team and as a group. I think understanding that and putting in the preparation is huge.”
Manager Bud Black believes that with Holland and his fellow pitchers leading the way, this team can achieve anything.
“I think both Greg and Mike Dunn have been fabulous in regards to the mentality of the bullpen. Where those guys have been, and who they are as players, and teammates has made a marked difference,” Black said. “A healthy Jake McGee, a full year of [Adam] Ottavino, experienced guys, that group of guys out there, those four, I think have really done a nice job of that bullpen mentality.”