ARLINGTON -- Sometime around Thanksgiving, Rangers pitcher Derek Holland went to see club president Nolan Ryan. They met in Ryan's office overlooking Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "I tracked him down, he didn't come looking for me," Holland said Tuesday. They didn't talk mustaches or commiserate over Michigan losing to Ohio State in football. Ryan doesn't share Holland's passion for the Wolverines.
They do share a passion for pitching, and Holland wanted to have a serious discussion with baseball's all-time leader in strikeouts and no-hitters. "We talked about location," Holland said. "When I didn't have good games, it was because I got beat down the middle. I've got to find a way when I'm not having a good game to still stay away from the middle of the plate. We talked about that, and he gave me some drills that I could do." Erratic location is the best reason to explain why Holland gave up 32 home runs, fifth most in the American League in 2012. It also helps explain why Holland's final record of 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA was a relative disappointment after he went 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA in '11. The Rangers were hoping that he would build upon that. Instead, Holland seemed to regress, although missing one month because of the effects of a nasty stomach virus didn't help. "Consistency," Holland said. "The big thing is being consistent. I would have two good starts and a bad start, two good starts and a bad start. I never stayed on the same path. I definitely want to get back to where I was two years ago." Rotation teammate Matt Harrison serves as his inspiration. Harrison was 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA for the Rangers in 2011 and definitely did not regress. Instead, he went 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA in '12, made the American League All-Star team and was the Rangers Pitcher of the Year. "I'd like to do what he did last year," Holland said. "Harry did a great job for us, everybody kind of overlooks what he did. I'm using that as motivation." Harrison and Holland are part of a rotation that also includes Yu Darvish, a 16-game winner. The Rangers are also moving Alexi Ogando back into the rotation. He was an All-Star as a starter in 2011 before being moved back to the bullpen this past season. The Rangers have already decided to use him as a starter in '13, and they're still looking for a fifth starter. "I feel confident with the four guys that we have," Holland said. "We need to see who the fifth guy is going to be, but having Ogando back is great. He showed he could dominate the year before. He was an All-Star." The Rangers have three All-Stars in the rotation in Darvish, Harrison and Ogando. Then there is Holland. He is already done much work with pitching coach Mike Maddux, and he has also spent time on the mental side with team psychologist Don Kalkstein. A trip to the office of the local Hall of Fame pitcher may also prove beneficial for an important member of the Rangers' rotation. "I have to step up big-time," he said. "We have what it takes to really go somewhere."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.