Greg Holland sneaked up on Royals fans last year, a surprisingly effective right-handed reliever who was a bit lost in the huge wave of young players arriving in Kansas City. Hoz, Moose, Gio, Salvy, Crow and Duff became part of the sports bar in-crowd’s chatter, but who talked much about Gregory Scott Holland Jr.? Perhaps they should have because by the end of last season, Holland might have been the Royals’ best pitcher.
He certainly got the job done. When the final results were tallied up for his 46 relief appearances, Holland had a 1.80 ERA, a 5-1 record, four saves and 74 strikeouts in just 60 innings. Holland, 26, didn’t seem to lose a thing over the winter either. Manager Ned Yost saw him throw a side session in spring training and was awed. “If you could film somebody and say this is the perfect side session, you’d film Greg Holland,” Yost said.
Holland, of course, has demonstrated an ability to be darn good with a batter at the plate in the heat of battle, too, notably with runners on base. Last year he entered games with a total of 33 runners on base; only two of them scored. That gave him a 6.1 percent efficiency with inherited runners – the best in the Major League last season and the best in Royals history. “I was able to throw strikes consistently and get ahead,” Holland said. “That helped me tremendously.”
Holland comes from Marion, a town of 8,000 just east of Asheville. He grew up playing ball. “That’s all there was to do. Definitely didn’t play video games,” he said. His brother, Chase, is a golfer. An infielder and part-time pitcher at McDowell High School, Holland pitched for WCU as a closer. “It wasn’t your typical coming in and throw the ninth inning. A lot of times I’d come in and throw seven, eight, nine or eight, nine,” said Holland, who earned first-team All-Southern Conference honors in 2007. In November, Holland, a natural resource management major who left shy of graduation, married Lacey Canada ’10, a former WCU cheerleader.
Holland, Kansas City’s 10th-round choice in the 2007 draft, was dispatched to the Idaho Falls team to speed his development. In 2008 he moved to Class A Wilmington, reached Double-A and Triple-A in 2009, and during the 2010 season gained a promotion to Kansas City. His 15 games for the Royals resulted in unimpressive statistics, and despite his strong arm at 2011 spring training, Holland didn’t make the team. “You can go one of two ways. You can be mad about it and pout … or you can go get outs and get called up quicker,” Holland said of being sent down. Holland got outs and was called up last May to be part of the Royals’ bullpen. A rib injury put Holland on the disabled list early in the season, but a strong Double-A rehab outing had him back on the Royals’ roster in mid-April.
Reprinted in edited format with the permission of MLB.com.