photo: Greg Holland (Ryan Finkelstein/The Cardinal Nation)
On last season’s Opening Day, Greg Holland was on mound in the ninth inning trying to save the game for the Colorado Rockies. The right-hander secured the final three outs of the 7-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in front of a road crowd of over 43,000 people at Miller Park.
The start of his 2018 season was entirely different as the 32-year old signed his new deal with the St. Louis Cardinals two days after Opening Day. While Holland’s organizational debut was anticlimactic compared to last year, it was still a very successful beginning to what the Cardinals hope is a fantastic campaign.
In Thursday’s inaugural Florida State League game between the Palm Beach Cardinals and the Jupiter Hammerheads, Holland was the headliner in what turned out to be a tightly contested high-A match-up.
Pitching in front of a Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium crowd that was announced at 1,149, but appeared to be considerably less, the contest offered a first chance for fans to see their new all-star closer in Cardinal red, and he did not disappoint.
Preferring not to start, which some MLB players do to get in and out as quickly as possible, instead Holland asked to work later in the game as in real situations. The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder entered the scoreless contest in the top of the seventh inning.
The pitcher in uniform number 36 started the frame by promptly striking out the first batter he faced. Holland then induced two ground balls to the shortstop, breaking a bat in the process, to retire the side in short order. Of his seven pitches, five went for strikes.
Holland was in line for the win after the Cardinals got on the board with a run in the bottom of the seventh. That lead did not stand, however, as his youthful bullpen mates yielded three runs in the top of the eighth. The final score was 3-2, as the Beach Birds dropped their 2018 opener to their neighboring Miami Marlins affiliate.
Holland’s fastball was in the 92-93 mile per hour range, which approaches his average 93.81 mph velocity last season, and his devastating slider looked crisp as well. Via his tidy inning Thursday evening, he passed his first test in showing the Cardinals he is ready to make an impact on the major league roster as soon as next week.
The Cardinals expect Holland to pitch again for Palm Beach on Saturday. They will then will evaluate if he is prepared to join the big-league club for the start of their home series against the Brewers on Monday.
So far, so good.
What is next?
Each Wednesday morning all season long, I will be back with my weekly notebooks from Roger Dean reporting on the exploits of the 2018 Palm Beach Cardinals, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
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Contact TCN Palm Beach Cardinals reporter Ryan Finkelstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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