Dave Martinez wanted to make it clear, so he told Greg Holland when they talked on the phone over the weekend and reiterated it to him when they met in person on Monday. The Washington Nationals weren’t signing him to secure late outs. He would not be joining them to close or even pitch the eighth inning. They wanted him to pitch the middle innings, to perhaps deepen a bullpen if he can resurrect his career after a forgettable start to the season with the St. Louis Cardinals. Holland understood and signed with the Nationals on Tuesday.
“I’ll be ready whenever the phone rings,” said Holland, donning a No. 56 Nationals shirsey Tuesday morning. “I’ve had some conversations about the sixth, seventh inning, but we’ve got a lot of different guys who have pitched in a lot of big games. I think the main thing right now is to just be ready to throw when your name is called. I’ll be out there and ready to go.”
The Nationals watched Holland, 32, throw Monday before officially signing him. He will be in uniform ready to help in the club’s doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday after spending the previous 10 days throwing off a mound a handful of times waiting for his next opportunity. Washington optioned Jimmy Cordero to Class AAA Syracuse to make room on the roster.
Holland hasn’t pitched in a game since allowing three runs (one earned) and walking two batters in one-third of an inning for the Cardinals on July 21. It was Holland’s 32nd and final appearance in a brief, dismal stint with St. Louis. He was designated for assignment two days later and passed through waivers unclaimed, meaning the Cardinals ate the remainder of the one-year, $14 million contract he signed over the offseason. He exited having pitched to a 7.92 ERA. He walked as many batters as he struck out (22). He compiled a 2.24 WHIP.
The stretch was a continuation of his second-half struggles with the Colorado Rockies last season. Holland jumped out to a resounding start in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, resembling the man who had become one of baseball’s premier relievers over six seasons with the Kansas City Royals. Holland owned a 1.56 ERA through 42 outings and made the National League all-star team. But he posted an 8.47 ERA over his final 19 games. Opponents had an .829 OPS against him. The start was good enough for Holland to earn National League comeback player of the year honors, but he wasn’t the same.
“It hasn’t [gone] well,” Holland said. “But sometimes that happens. People struggle sometimes. So I’m excited. Kind of a fresh start on a new team, helping this club get to where it wants to go.”
Washington doesn’t need the Holland who boasted a 2.42 ERA and 145 saves over six seasons and dominated during the 2014 postseason with the Royals. His fastball sat in the high 90s to complement a wipeout slider back then. The stuff isn’t the same anymore. But the Nationals are banking on him performing more like the pitcher he was before last season’s second-half struggles to provide depth after trading Brandon Kintzler and designating Shawn Kelley for assignment recently while all-star closer Sean Doolittle works his way back from the disabled list.
“His [velocity] is not what it used to be. But his slider is really good,” Martinez said. “His fastball is anywhere from 92 to 94 [mph], but like I said, he’s a veteran guy who knows how to get outs in big situations. So that’s what we liked about him. He’s a very personable guy. He’ll fit very well in our bullpen and in our clubhouse. So I’m looking forward to getting him out there and watching him pitch.”
He’ll join a bullpen that includes a couple of familiar faces in Ryan Madson and Kelvin Herrera. Madson spent the 2015 season with the Royals. Herrera was teammates with Holland from 2011 through 2015, the year Kansas City advanced to a second straight World Series and won it. Madson is now Washington’s eighth-inning man. Herrera is the closer. They will remain in those roles until Doolittle returns. Holland knows his role, and he is on board.
Jefry Rodriguez recalled
The Nationals recalled Jefry Rodriguez as their 26th man for Tuesday’s doubleheader. He will start Game 1. By designating Rodriguez as its 26th man, Washington didn’t have to make another roster move to accommodate him. Rodriguez will return to Syracuse after the outing.
Ender Inciarte CF
Ozzie Albies 2B
Freddie Freeman 1B
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Duvall LF
Johan Camargo 3B
Tyler Flowers C
Dansby Swanson SS
Max Fried P
Trea Turner SS
Juan Soto LF
Anthony Rendon 3B
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Daniel Murphy 2B
Michael A. Taylor CF
Spencer Kieboom C
Jefry Rodriguez P