November 2010

The Interview Vault: Derek Holland

holland interview vault.jpgBack in April of 2008, a 20-year-old draft-and-follow left-hander named Derek Holland was a relative surprise choice for Clinton’s Opening Night starter against the Cedar Rapids Kernels. 

Holland, the 25th round pick by the Texas Rangers in 2006 out of Wallace State Community College wasn’t exactly a hot prospect when he arrived to start the 2008 season.  He was coming off a solid 4-5, 3.22 season in Spokane, but wasn’t the returning playoff hero that right-hander Evan Reed was.  Reed, a third-round pick in 2007 out of Cal Poly was given the #2 starter role because pitching coach Danny Clark felt Holland “had earned it” with a great Spring Training.

What Holland would earn from there on would put him on the fast track to the big leagues.

He went 7-0 with a 2.40 ERA and limited Midwest League opponents to a .228 average over his 17 starts as a LumberKing, including six innings of one-hit ball in that previously-mentioned Opening Night outing against the Kernels.  Getting better with each start and limited only by a pesky blister on his pitching hand, Holland would prove ready for the next level by the time July rolled around.  In his final three starts, he yielded just a run over 19.2 innings (a 0.46 ERA) and struck out 18.

His fantastic rise continued in the Cal League as he needed just five starts with Bakersfield to prove to Rangers brass that he was too good for high-A as well.  Added along with LumberKings’ teammate Neftali Feliz to double-A Frisco, Holland would go 3-0 with a 0.69 ERA and a .163 opponent average over four regular-season starts and 1-1 with an astounding 0.44 ERA (1 ER in 20.2 IP) in three playoff starts for the RoughRiders.  He’d end the year alongside Feliz as the unquestioned future of the Texas staff.

By the time late April, 2009 came around, Holland was primed for his Major League debut with the Rangers.  Not quite a full year after he was a suspicious choice for Clinton’s #1 rotation spot, he was dressing in blue and red at Rogers Centre in Toronto, tossing 2.1 scoreless innings in relief against the Blue Jays.

In parts of two Major League seasons with the Rangers, Holland has already seen his fair share of success and failure.  After dropping his ERA as low as 4.72 with three-straight wins in the rotation (including a complete-game effort against the Angels on August 9), Holland lost six of his last seven starts to finish the ’09 season at 8-13, 6.12.  This season saw Holland bounce between triple-A Oklahoma City and the Rangers, improving on his numbers significantly as he went 3-4 with a 4.08 ERA in 14 games, 10 starts with Texas.

And, of course, he pitched in the 2010 playoffs.  Ignore his disastrous outing against San Francisco in the World Series and he was pretty solid in relief.  The Rangers might not advance past the Yankees without his relief victory in the Bronx in Game 4.  Needless to say, Holland has made himself a fixture as either a starter or reliever heading into 2011.

For today’s edition of The Interview Vault, I’ve dug up my first recorded conversation with Derek following the first of his seven wins with the LumberKings.  He defeated the Dayton Dragons at Fifth Third Field, not far from his hometown of Newark, OH back on April 18, 2008.  Aside from talking about the outing, we also talk about his favorite team growing up — the Atlanta Braves — and his favorite pitcher from that staff, the legendary Greg Maddux.  Fitting that his current pitching coach is Mike Maddux.

Listen Here: 
Derek Holland (April, 2008).mp3

I’ve also interviewed Derek since he’s been a Ranger.  You can find that on a previous LumberBlog post here: http://mlblogslumberkings.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/holland20interview20vault-thumb-480×270-25217911.jpgarchives/2009/06/special_guest_derek_holland.html

-DL

More Pub for Franklin

A new article is out on Mariners.com highlighting the first season of LumberKings’ shortstop  Nick Franklin.  The article, written by MLB.com’s Doug Miller has a ton of quotes from the Clinton home run king about his uncanny ability to hit the longball despite his small frame, his improvements on defense and his confidence.

Field coordinator Andy Stankiewicz also adds his observations.

Check it out:  http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20101104&content_id=15992492&vkey=news_sea&c_id=sea

-DL

The Interview Vault: Danny Clark

dc interview vault.jpgThe World Series is over, and the San Francisco Giants are the well-deserved champions.  No doubt, their young rotation of Tim Lincecum/Matt Cain/Madison Bumgardner — and to a lesser degree Jonathan Sanchez — handcuffed the Rangers over the course of five games en route to the 4-1 series victory.  Only Mitch Moreland hit above .250 for the series, batting .462 with a home run and three RBI.

While the San Fran arms are sure to be the buzz around baseball all winter, there’s no doubt that the young guns of the Texas rotation and bullpen proved a little something as well on the national stage.  Colby Lewis stepped out of the shadow of Cliff Lee to prove to be the Rangers’ stopper, going 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four postseason starts including the lone World Series win.  Rookie closer Neftali Feliz shrugged off doubts that he could perform in the playoffs, posting a 1.23 ERA in seven appearances including a World Series save.

Ignore the blowups in Game 2 and left-handers Derek Holland and Michael Kirkman were actually pretty solid.  The Rangers might not get past the New York Yankees without the clutch 3.2 scoreless innings thrown by Holland in Game 4 of the ALCS.  Alexi Ogando was another unknown heading into late October, and he responded with a 1.50 ERA in five postseason outings before ending up on the disabled list.

All of these pitchers (aside from Lee), at some point on their way to reaching Arlington have worked with Texas Rangers’ Pitching Coordinator Danny Clark.  Better known as “DC”, Clark was the pitching coach here in Clinton from 2007-2008 before rising to his current rank prior to the 2009 season. 

The 2008 campaign alone saw Clark teach the likes of Feliz, Holland, Kirkman, Blake Beavan, Michael Main, Josh Lueke, Kennil Gomez and Ryan Tatusko.  The year before, he guided pitchers like Kasey Kiker, Zach Phillips, Omar Poveda and Evan Reed, all right here in Clinton, IA.

Today, we’ll dust off an interview I did with DC during the second half of that tremendous ’08 year.   We talk about Feliz’s development of a breaking ball/changeup to compliment his blazing fastball, Kirkman’s revival after tough seasons in ’06 and ’07, Holland’s 7-0 start to the season, Gomez and Beavan working through struggles and more. 

Listen Here: 
Pitching Coach Danny Clark (talking about Feliz, Holland in 2008).mp3

Interestingly enough, we ran into DC just hours before Game 3 on Saturday in Arlington.  It was one of those “coming full circle” moments that baseball often provides.  I imagine that, like us, he was pretty astounded by how fast the success has come for many of his pitchers.  It’s a success I believe you’ll see around Texas for seasons to come. 

-DL

Scenes from Game 3 of the World Series

100_2108.JPGI went on a very unexpected last-minute trip this weekend.  To Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, to Game 3 of the World Series.

Myself, along with our General Manager Ted Tornow and Assistant GM Nate Kreinbrink embarked on a 14-hour drive from Clinton to the greater Dallas area to watch five former LumberKings as they suited up for the Rangers in the first-ever World Series game played in the city of Arlington.

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The Giants and Rangers lined up for the National Anthem, sung by Kelly Clarkson.

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Colby Lewis delivers the first pitch of Game 3 to Andres Torres of the San Francisco Giants.

We were not disappointed, and neither was the record crowd of 54,000-plus.  Former Kings’ first-baseman Mitch Moreland ripped a three-run blast in the second inning, supporting nearly eight innings of solid work from right-hander Colby Lewis.  Former Kings’ right-hander Neftali Feliz then worked a perfect ninth inning to nail down the first-ever Rangers’ World Series win and his first postseason save.  The atmosphere was absolutely electric from the moment we got there to the moment we left.

I recorded some great video of Moreland’s home run, Feliz’s save and a few other things in between.  Enjoy.

VIDEO:  Scenes from Game 3 of the 2010 World Series

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Thanks again to our contacts with the Rangers for setting us up, we had a blast.  Too bad we couldn’t stick around for the other two games.  Let’s hope for a Ranger win tonight in Game 5 to send the series back to San Francisco!

-DL

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