ARLINGTON, Texas – The promotion of Derek Holland after only one outing at Triple A might have the appearance of a team extending its head start on 2010.
But the Texas Rangers learned in spring training that their prized left-handed prospect would impact the club this season, and some believe he should have broken camp with the team.
Instead, Holland joined them Saturday, when they purchased his contract from Oklahoma City, stuck him in the bullpen and designated right-hander Josh Rupe for assignment.
The move will allow Holland to get adjusted to life in the major leagues and make him better when the anticipated prospect revolution is in full swing next year.
The Rangers, though, expect him to be an immediate upgrade for the worst bullpen in baseball.
“We felt Derek was the best option to help our ’pen,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “It was something that was discussed in spring training, breaking camp with him in this role.
“He’s a strike-thrower, and he’s got the stuff and makeup to handle it.”
Holland pitched for the Spokane Indians in 2007. He was 4-5 with a 3.22 ERA in 16 games, 14 of them as a starter.
The long-range plan for Holland has him in the starting rotation, possibly on occasion this season and for sure in 2010. The bullpen-to-rotation approach could also be taken with Neftali Feliz, another top prospect.
Daniels said the club expects that Holland won’t be returning to the minor leagues, where he has only five starts above Class A.
Holland knows he will have to perform to avoid the northbound lanes of Interstate 35 back to Oklahoma City. The southbound lanes? Holland said he covered those in a brisk 2 hours, 45 minutes Saturday morning.
“I was straight moving. I’m not going to lie,” said Holland, who didn’t pitch this weekend against Kansas City. “I’ve just got to go out and throw. Nothing has changed.”
Maybe not between the lines, but Holland will trade minor league bus rides to 12,000-seat stadiums for chartered flights in triple-deck ballparks that seat 50,000.
He’s also back around the players he spent so much time with in spring training. The Rangers kept Holland in camp until the day before they broke for the regular season so he could soak up the experience of being around big league players and coaches.
Holland took advantage of that time. He impressed not only with his pitching (2-0, 3.97 ERA, 11 strikeouts, four walks in 11 1/3 innings) but with his aptitude and approach.
He didn’t expect to make the club out of spring training, but he was closer to achieving that than he thinks.
“We had committed not to do it,” Daniels said. “But there was some sentiment that the best team would have had Derek on it.”
Holland is on the team now, getting the call ahead of Derrick Turnbow, a former Brewers All-Star, and former top prospect Thomas Diamond. If Holland performs well – and the club expects he will – he’s in the big leagues to stay.
“I hope to have it that way,” he said.
“I hope I’m not leaving and am here to stay. I just have to keep going out there and pitching and stay on top of everything.”
Texas catcher Taylor Teagarden, another former Spokane Indian,made his third start of the season on Sunday, striking out three times. Regular catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been struggling at the plate, batting .176 after 11 games, but manager Ron Washington said Saltalamacchia has improved at calling a game and blocking balls in the dirt. … Texas slugger Josh Hamilton struck out seven times in the three-game series with the Royals that concluded Sunday. … The Rangers had lost seven of their previous eight games before beating Kansas City on Sunday.
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