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Greg Holland’s healthy, and that (apparently) makes all the difference

Jeff Jones

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Greg Holland’s magical, mystery hip ailment has apparently resolved itself, and as a result, the mysterious “it” which eluded him so stubbornly for the season’s first two months has apparently been found.

Holland was back at Busch Stadium on the active roster on Monday for the first time since the Cardinals placed him on the disabled list on May 26th with a right hip impingement. His activation last Tuesday in Philadelphia was foretold by the Cardinals’ decision to take him with the team on the road trip that continued to Milwaukee.

That move was, according to the belief of several people around the team, at least partially forced by a reluctance to oppose Holland’s assertion that he was healthy following a diagnosis that was, at its core, more than somewhat specious.

“When you’re on a rehab assignment,” said Holland, “it wasn’t for me as much the numbers as it was that feeling of repeating delivery.

“I felt…my second outing and third outing in Memphis, and then in Springfield, that I started to be more true to what I’m accustomed to.”

The numbers certainly didn’t seem to reveal that the pitcher was on his way to recovery. Holland surrendered three runs (all earned) and four walks across three innings at Triple-A Memphis. He then moved to Double-A Springfield when Memphis headed out on a road trip and surrendered a home run to a journeyman outfield prospect named Chuck Taylor – Taylor’s only home run in more than 300 plate appearances at Double-A this season.

Still, Holland was insistent that he had made progress, though he was unable to isolate a specific issue with his delivery that was cleared up by his physical healing. He referred somewhat nebulously to “rotation,” but was loathe to clear up any other mechanical changes that were made.

For his part, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was somewhat more forthcoming about Holland’s healing. “Sometimes it’s just more in the mind than anything else that can make a big difference,” Matheny said. “It takes just one little adjustment sometimes that allows you to get to that feel where you feel confident, and Greg seemed to have found something that’s making the difference of how he looks now.”

Cardinals general manager Michael Girsch referred to Holland’s performance as “one of the bright spots that came out of the road trip” on which the Cardinals recorded a 3-4 record. Two of those three wins were recorded in games in which Holland appeared.

“I was cautiously optimistic that he had a better idea of what he was trying to do and how he was going to get it done,” said Girsch.

“Whenever players feel like they’ve figured something out, not always does it actually come to fruition. But, often times, it’s because they’ve actually figured something out.”

Holland’s rejuvenation has, to date, been abrupt. It covers only three innings spread evenly over three appearances, but some numbers do jump out. He’s yet to issue a base on balls since his return after surrendering at least one in six of the eight appearances before he was placed on the disabled list.

In those eight games, covering six innings pitched, Holland struck out a total of three batters. He fanned five in his three innings on the road trip.

Whether Holland was suffering from a serious physical ailment or simply in search of a mental respite that wasn’t going to come on the active roster seems now to be a question worth pursuing only academically. In practice, Holland has every appearance of being the player to whom the Cardinals made a substantial financial commitment on the eve of the season’s opening.

“I was struggling early in the year,” Holland said. “I felt healthy. I felt normal.”

“Obviously, it gets to a point where you’re kind of beating your head against the wall,” Holland admitted. “Like, why am I not doing what I’m capable of doing?” And I think that hinderance played some factor in that.

“I’m not gonna say that’s the reason I struggled but, you know, now not having that issue has really freed up my lower half.”

His upper half, too, appears clear, and it seems to be making all the difference.

Jeff Jones is the host of Locked On Cardinals. He covers the Cardinals and St. Louis Blues for St. Louis Game Time and 920 AM WGNU. He got a high five from Lou Brock after Dmitri Young’s triple in game four of the 1996 NLCS. He probably doesn’t hate the Cubs as much as you do.

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