But as Holland, 29, continued to pitch this season, and even with his success (32 saves), the pain and diminishing returns caught up to him and the Royals.
After a blown save last weekend in Detroit, his fifth this season, manager Ned Yost removed Holland from the closer's role. And after several meetings with the coaching staff and club officials this week, the decision was made to shut him down for the rest of 2015.
Holland will travel to Los Angeles next week to be examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache of Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. But both Yost and Royals general manager Dayton Moore confirmed there is a tear in Holland's elbow ligament and that rehab alone won't help. He'll likely need Tommy John surgery.
"It sucks. But it's baseball," Holland said of his situation. "It's pretty difficult with the situation we're in. But it's what's best for the team and best for me. It's what's necessary."
Holland's velocity began dipping from 96 mph to the 88-93-mph range within the past month.
"He battled through it all September and October last year, through the playoffs," Yost said. "He came into Spring Training and he knew he had changes in his elbow. But he was still functional. But then the velocity started decreasing, the command started decreasing and those are all signs [of a ligament tear]."
The Royals' front office and Yost asked Holland repeatedly to get an MRI exam, beginning last year. But Holland and his competitive nature refused.
"I didn't want the burden, if there was something wrong, of trying to pitch with it," Holland said. "I thought I could compete."
Finally, after the Royals returned from Tampa Bay on Aug. 30 this season, Holland got the MRI and it showed a "significant" tear, according to Yost. Still, Holland wanted to continue.
"I wanted to give it a shot," he said. "But it got to the point where I couldn't be as competitive as I wanted…I could see the writing on the wall when they said they didn't know what role I was going to be in.
"It's been a long season for me. But I felt I owed my teammates to work through it and get back to the playoffs."
Yost was willing to let Holland continue in the closer's role until it became obvious that Holland couldn't compete at his normal level.
"What it came down to was that we can't afford to," Yost said, whose team was on the brink of clinching the American League Central on Thursday.
Holland's future with the Royals certainly is in jeopardy. His final year of arbitration is in 2016 and he is scheduled to be a free-agent in 2017.