The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

January 31, 2014

Royals Hall of Fame closer gives high praise to Holland

The Kansas City Royals have been blessed with a strong tradition of closing pitchers over the years.

Dan Quisenberry finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting five times, including a second-place finish in 1983 when he boasted a 1.93 ERA with 45 saves.

Jeff Montgomery was a three-time all-star with the Royals, recording a 2.27 ERA and 45 saves in 1993.

Joakim Soria was a two-time all-star and finished 10th in the Cy Young voting in 2010 after he delivered a 1.78 ERA and 43 saves.

Yet Montomery doesn’t think Quisenberry, Soria or even he ever had a year quite like current Royals closer Greg Holland had in 2013.

“Greg Holland obviously had a record season last year,” said Montgomery, who was at Academy Sports + Outdoor in Joplin as part of the Royals Caravan on Wednesday. “I think it was the best season of any Royals relief pitcher in history. I thought it was just spectacular what he was able to do. He was dominant when he needed to be dominant. He was just a lot of fun to watch.”

It’s certainly high praise from the Royals Hall of Famer, but it’s an argument with merit.

Holland finished 2013 with a 2-1 record, 1.21 ERA and 47 saves. He recorded an astounding 103 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched.

A 10th-round pick out of Western Carolina University in 2007, Holland was named to his first All-Star Game in 2013.

Montgomery is a bit of a kindred spirit with Holland as both pitchers were somewhat overlooked coming out of college because of their height.

“Greg and I have a lot in common in that aspect, because I was a ninth-round pick,” Montgomery said. “We’re both about 5 feet, 10 inches tall. He has more of a live arm than I had. Maybe I had a better breaking ball at that stage of my career. But we were both able to overcome those obstacles. Once you make it to the major leagues, it’s really based on your performance. It’s not based on your size or things you can’t control. It’s based on the things you do and you can control. It’s easy to overlook players like Greg Holland and myself, because we don’t have that enormous physical stature or enormous abilities that set us apart from people.”

Yet the 5-10, 200-pound Holland anchored a Kansas City bullpen that was considered one of the best in baseball in 2013. Other Royals relievers include Aaron Crow, Luke Hochevar, Tim Collins, Louis Coleman and Kelvin Herrera. Hochevar, a former starter, found a home in the bullpen and finished the season with a 5-2 record and 1.92 ERA.

“I look at Luke Hochevar and the way he was able to re-establish himself, and I think Greg Holland and the end of the bullpen had a lot to do with that,” Montgomery said. “It provided a lot of opportunities for Hochevar to come in and do what he did so well. Luke came into so many games that were pivotal, and he was able to get a big strikeout to keep the game alive and give the Royals a chance to win. Holland had a lot to do with it, and I think everyone else fed off the season he had.”

Royals’ pitchers and catchers will report to spring training in Surprise, Ariz., on Feb. 15.

There, Donnie Joseph will try to earn his spot in a crowded Kansas City bullpen. The 25-year-old lefty, who also was at the Royals Caravan on Wednesday, enjoyed success as a September call-up last year. Joseph recorded seven strikeouts over 52⁄3 scoreless innings for the Royals in 2013. The former third-round of the Cincinnati Reds fanned 84 batters over 542⁄3 innings at Triple-A Omaha.

“I’ll go to spring training, work hard and hopefully put myself in the situation to break the camp with the team,” Joseph said.

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