Veteran Holland resumes fight for roster spot

Kansas City Royals pitcher Greg Holland entered spring training and has ranked well thus far.

KANSAS CITY — A veteran reliever to keep an eye on in Royals’ Summer Camp is right-hander Greg Holland, one of the main reasons behind the Royals’ rise to the World Series in 2014 and '15.

Holland entered Spring Training in Arizona as a non-roster invitee, but seemingly had performed well enough to crack the 40-man and the Opening Day roster. All that changed, of course, with the pandemic.

Now, Holland is back at Kauffman Stadium, trying to prove he still deserves a spot on what now will be a 30-man Opening Day roster.

“For me, I don’t really worry about that,” Holland said. “I know where I’m at. I’ve had outings where I had good results and didn’t throw my best, and vice versa. I try to be my best critic and worst critic.

“I felt good leaving Spring Training, and that’s part of the reason I was upset when we had to leave. For me, it’s just taking care of today, and we’ll just see where the chips fall. I can’t worry about making the team. I understand that part is there. But I also know that if I work hard and do what I need to do, it puts me in the best position to help the team.”

With four extra spots now available on the Opening Day roster, Holland’s chances certainly have improved even more. But he is taking nothing for granted.

“I really don’t know what the roster situation will be,” he said. “I just know that if I’m feeling healthy, I can get outs a lot of different ways. I felt good leaving [Arizona], and I feel good now.”

Royals manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred have appreciated not only Holland’s efforts on the mound, but his leadership skills.

Holland reminded his Royals teammates over the past three months to utilize that time to be 100 percent ready for the restart.

Holland knows from experience. He got off to a late start to the 2018 season after signing a free-agent deal on the last day of March. Missing Spring Training that season torpedoed the early part of that season for him as he posted a 7.92 ERA in 32 games for the Cardinals before he was released.

“Greg was on our Zoom calls with the other pitchers,” Eldred said, “and he would say to them, ‘I can tell you from experience, the last thing you want to do is be surprised by a phone call.’ So Greg was a leader for us to stay prepared and be ready.”

Eldred also has been impressed with Holland’s stuff early in Summer Camp.

“What I’ve seen here is just as good as his body of work was in spring,” Eldred said. “Actually, the ball is coming out even better. I think he’s been really sharp. I think he’s in a great spot.”

Holland was asked in a media Zoom call about having to adjust to all the health protocols.

“It’s a game of adjustments,” he said. “It’s not nearly as difficult as losing five or six miles per hour on your fastball. I think if I can learn to pitch now and get outs, I can probably go about the business of how to wear a mask.”

The Royals will play their first intrasquad game at 11:15 a.m. CT Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium, one of many games to come over the next two-plus weeks.

Matheny said each game will probably go about six or seven innings.

“You can’t replicate game action during normal workouts,” Matheny said. “Just the twisting and turning and running back to your position — all that stuff. So, these intrasquad games are really important to us.”

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