Posted on August 27, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
It’s been a rough month for Colorado Rockies closer Greg Holland. After an utterly brilliant first half of the season, Holland has run into a brick wall during the month of August. In 10 appearances this month, Holland has four losses and three blown saves. Rockies manager Bud Black has stuck with him, refusing to take Holland out of the closer’s job. But with each passing day, it’s increasingly difficult for Black to stay with Holland as the team’s closer.
Holland sat out all of 2016 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and was subsequently released by the Royals. He signed with Colorado in part because of the opportunity to become a closer. For the first half of the season, Holland could not have pitched any better. He posted a 1.62 ERA while notching 28 saves in 29 opportunities on his way to being named an all-star. Holland has been a big reason why the Rockies are in great position to earn a wild-card spot.
But all of that has come to a screeching halt in August. Opposing batters are hitting .359 against Holland in August, with the 31-year old posting a 15.12 ERA. He has cost the Rockies several games, which has allowed a few teams to creep within striking distance of the second wild card spot. However, Black remains steadfast in his commitment to Holland as the team’s closer, not yet losing faith in him.
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“My initial instinct is to keep Greg where he is,” Black said earlier this week when asked about switching closers. “We wouldn’t be where we are without him, and he’s going through a bit of a tough stretch as far as making pitches.”
Black says that Holland is healthy and hasn’t mentioned any discomfort coming off elbow surgery. However, it would make sense for Holland to be feeling tired at this stage in the season, especially after not pitching at all last year.
“It’s a long year and we are in late August. This is the time of year when you do see the dog days kind of set in on players, and a lot of time it’s pitchers,” said Black.
Black, a former major league pitching coach, believes he has diagnosed Holland’s slider as the primary issue. The manager said prior to Sunday’s game against the Braves that Holland would get the day off and will be working on getting his slider back on track.
“We have to address the slider a little bit and make sure we get the right rotation, the good spin on it,” explains Black. “The velocity’s fine. It’s just the location of the slider is the problem here, and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it.”
Typically, when pitch location is a suddenly a problem for pitchers, it could be a result of fatigue. However, Black remains confident that Holland is not far away from getting back on track.
“His arm feels good. He still has confidence,” says Black. “We’ve got to get him to the point where he’s locating the slider, locating the fastball and getting that last out or making that last pitch to get the save. That’s been the case the last three times when he’s been one out away, one strike away, and just hasn’t executed that pitch.”
If Black wanted to make a change at closer, his options are likely limited to either Jake McGee or Pat Neshek. McGee served as Colorado’s closer for the first part of last season. However, he’s been inconsistent during the second half of this season. Neshek has little experience closing out games, although he was having an outstanding season with the Phillies before being traded to the Rockies last month. For now, Black continues to resist a change at closer, believing that Holland will work his way out of his slump.
“We’ll talk about it, but we’ve got to make sure there are not other things going on,” Black said Saturday. “But we feel pretty confident that physically Greg is good. We’ll get some things straightened out.”