If all goes well, the St. Louis Cardinals could have newly signed free agent closer Greg Holland in uniform and with the team at Busch Stadium the beginning of next week.
The 32-year old right-hander threw to hitters today in Jupiter, Florida and will pitch in the season opener for Palm Beach (A+) this Thursday night.
“He would then pitch in Saturday’s game in Palm Beach and then if all goes well, would be live in St. Louis on Monday,” shared John Mozeliak, President of Baseball Operations for the St. Louis Cardinals, via conference call this evening.
Reiterating his confidence on the pitching in the organization, Mozeliak cited the signing of Holland as a unique opportunity for the Cardinals.
“As the off-season unfolded, we were always paying attention to what was happening in the relief market,” said Mozeliak. “As February turned to March, as March was approaching April, we looked up and Greg was still there. So Mr. DeWitt, Scott Boras, and myself we talked various times over the last ten days and ultimately we were pleased to have Greg join us.”
Like so many other free agents, Holland had to navigate through an off-season with little movement and deal with his turning down of the $17.4 million qualifying offer to remain with the Colorado Rockies.
“No, I never thought about that,” he stated. “You’ve got to understand it’s a process and there’s no timetable on that process. It was different for a lot of us this winter. For me, the main thing was staying in shape and realizing I had value in the game and waiting for the opportunity to sign with a team that I thought could compete at the highest level and get back to the postseason and ultimately compete to win a World Series. That’s where I’m at in my career–I want to win. And I’m very fortunately that I ended up with an organization that’s going to give me that chance.”
Making that process easier was the support of his family as Holland focused on his staying involved with his wife and children.
“It takes the frustration out of not being signed because that’s what all of us want to do–you want to sign sooner rather than later, but you also have to understand the business aspect of it,” he said. “It was strange watching Spring Training games, but I understood that was part of it.”
Financial terms have not been disclosed by the Cardinals, but multiple reports cite the 1-year deal to be worth $14 million. Holland will be eligible to become a free agent once again after this season and seek the elusive multi-year contract.
“I wanted to make sure that whoever I invested in also invested in me and that’s ultimately what happened,” he said. “The Cardinals gave me a chance to come here and compete and hopefully help them get back to the World Series. I don’t think in terms of deadlines or drop dead dates or anything like that, I just wanted to feel like the team I signed with trusted me and put that faith in me the same way I’m going to do for them.”
To be ready once he signed a contract, Holland spent five of last six weeks at the Boras Sports Training Institute in California where he pitched to college players and worked with trainers and strength coaches.
“We basically went back and mimicked a Spring Training,” explained Holland. “I’ve got four to six bullpens in before Spring Training pitchers and catchers reported. From there, we took an approach–I typically throw 10-12 innings in a Spring Training scenario. That’s what I did. We mimicked that really well.”
That simulated Spring Training also included back-to-back outings.
“I did that twice,” Holland shared. “That’s one of those things, as a reliever, you mark off the bucket list. The first time you throw to hitters in that live BP scenario is one check mark, once you get into a game situation with fielders and stuff and you’ve got base runners, that’s another one. And that back-to-back is key because your adrenaline is building up the farther on you go down that path. You want to know how your arm responds. Once you get through that back-to-back, that’s the point I really feel like I’m ready to go for the season.”
After missing the 2016 season to recover from Tommy John surgery, Holland returned to record 41 saves last season for Colorado–tied for the most in the National League. Prior to the All-Star break, he had a 1.62 ERA and 28 of those saves before he saw his second half ERA balloon to 6.38–which has been attributed to a couple of bad outings the result of small finger issue.
While Holland acknowledged that he did cut his finger in August and also had a baby the end of July, he was purposeful in not using either as an excuse.
“I don’t think any of that attributes to a kind of a 3-week blip in a 162 game season,” he explained. “I was just throwing bad pitches ahead in the count,” explained Holland. “It was a really weird two or three week stretch where I was doing the right thing getting ahead of people, I just wasn’t putting them away. In the grand scheme of things, my job description’s not based on ERA or strikeouts or anything–it’s how many times out of 10 do I hold a lead or keep us in a game to help us win because that’s what I’m supposed to do. All that being said, it was a very successful season for me.”
The addition of Holland brings an established closer to anchor the bullpen for St. Louis, which already possessed the depth of several quality arms.
“I’m excited,” said Holland. “I’ve been very fortunate to pitch in some strong bullpens and I’m ready to do it again this year.”
photo credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports