And that was before what was arguably his best start of the season Friday night.
Holland’s teammates were ecstatic to see that he got rid of the shaggy mop of curly locks that had gotten so much attention. He missed a few spots with his do-it-yourself buzz cut, which was cleaned up by reliever Mike Adams, but the fact that Holland took a pair of clippers to his head sent a message to his teammates that he was ready to focus on the business of baseball.
“He shaved that ridiculous haircut and went back to work,” clubhouse leader Michael Young said.
Holland, whose horrible mustache remains intact, admits that the haircut was a case of him caving to peer pressure. He was also looking for anything that might help after allowing five runs in five innings in a loss to the Astros in his last start, which dropped him to 3-3 this season.
“I tried to do something different for the team,” Holland said. “The hair wasn’t getting many wins, so let’s try something different.”
The buzz cut is 1-0, winning in impressive fashion.
Holland pitched like the guy who won 10 of his last 11 decisions last season, the dude who dominated when he got the ball in Game 4 of the World Series. He gave the Rangers 7 1/3 strong innings, allowing two runs on five hits and one walk while recording a season-high nine strikeouts.
Holland had great stuff. His fastball touched 96 mph and his slider was the best it’s been this season.
However, Holland’s command was the biggest difference between this outing and some of his substandard performances this season.
The Rangers gave Holland a six-run cushion in the first inning -- after he struck out the side on 13 pitches -- and he responded by going right at the Blue Jays. That’s a sign of progress for a young pitcher who has been guilty of getting too cute when gifted a lead in the past.
“He stayed in control, didn’t try to get out of the innings too fast,” manager Ron Washington said. “He let the innings happen. Usually when Holland gets a big lead, he’s going to try to get three outs in one batter, but tonight he took it a batter at a time and executed his pitches extremely well.”
Added Holland: “You don’t want to try to nibble or anything like that. Obviously, that’s when things have hurt me before, when I try to do too much once they’ve scored runs for me. My job when I go out there after they score some runs is to shut them down and let them go out there and keep doing their thing.”
This is the kind of performance the Rangers want from Holland on a consistent basis.
It’s fair to hold Holland to that standard because the lefty has proven that he has that type of talent. He’s been dominant too many times to accept average or worse.
As Washington said, “He was the Derek Holland we’ve seen before.”
Just with a better haircut. Or more business-like, at least.