ARLINGTON, Texas – Derek Holland’s encore performance on a night when he shined with 8 1/3 scoreless innings in a crucial Game 4 World Series victory for the Rangers was a one-act play.
Holland role-played how his chat on the mound with manager Ron Washington went down in the ninth as the starter begged to stay in the game.
“He’s like, ‘Nope, you ain’t going out there son,’” said Holland, who fancies himself a master impersonator, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harry Carey. “I said, ‘Come on, Wash. You got to let me go. I can get this. I’m going to try to get a double play and do everything I can.
“He said, ‘Nope, you ain’t getting out there. Just watch the crowd reaction when you get out of here, son.’ I said, ‘All right, I’ll see you later Wash. Thanks.’”
The exchange is just one example of many that Washington and Holland have had over the years. The frequency of those chats has increased in 2011.
“He does that a lot with Holland,” reliever Darren O’Day said. “I think it’s pretty easy to see Holland’s talent. He’s a guy that the mental side of baseball had to catch up to his physical tools. To see how far he’s come since 2009 is pretty amazing. It’s because people like Wash, [pitching coach Mike] Maddux and the other guys on the staff and veteran players have stayed with him. They know to help Derek and he’s figured it out this year.”
That coaching staff wasn’t as surprised as the rest of the baseball world by Holland’s magnificent two-hit, 8 1/3-inning start. But it began with yet another of those important talks. Washington usually pumps Holland up before a start. This time, national television caught the exchange as the 59-year-old Washington put both his hands on Holland’s shoulder and told him he believed in him.
“The big thing was he was talking to me, motivating me more than anything,” Holland said. “He said, ‘I know what your game plan is and you’re going to go in to hitters. Just don’t be hitting anybody.’ He was telling me to stay in control, be relaxed and I’d be fine.”
Holland took the advice and applied it. Washington seems to have a knack for knowing what to say to Holland and how to approach his young starter when he’s struggling. Holland was 1-0 with a 5.27 ERA in four games (three starts) in the playoffs coming in to Sunday’s Game 4. Before the series, Washington was even asked whether the club considered starting Scott Feldman in Holland’s place. The answer, of course, was no. That’s not how Washington or his staff does things. They trust in their players and show as much faith as possible in them.
But when Washington needs to send a stern message, he’ll do it. Holland was the recipient of that in late July, when he wasn’t as aggressive as he needed to be in the second inning of a game in Toronto.
“He ripped me a new one,” Holland said at the time. “That’s the best way to put it.”
Washington, though, is normally simply trying to get Holland in the right frame of mind.
“Wash has that calm demeanor that he can relate to a young player,” bench coach Jackie Moore said. “The message is, 'We need you. We know how good you are. Don’t beat yourself.'
"We know what he’s capable of doing. When he has a problem, he beats himself. He gets behind hitters and doesn’t execute. But we knew he was capable of a game like this. We’ve seen him pitch games like this.”
Washington just smiled like a proud father when asked about Holland’s display on Sunday.
“He was a thoroughbred tonight,” Washington said. “He did what we needed. We needed him to go out there and pitch well and he did. He showed the world what he’s capable of doing. Now we’ve just got to find that capability every time he takes the baseball.”
You can bet Washington will do all he can to help uncover that in the upcoming years.