For most of the summer Derek Holland(notes) has been just another buzz prospect trying to make a go of it in the show, hitting more than his share of potholes (6.13 ERA). But it only took a couple of electric hours down in Arlington for everyone to get excited about this prized lefty again.
Holland dominated the Mariners from the word go Thursday night, taking a one-hit shutout into the ninth inning and piling up 10 strikeouts along the way. The Mariners scratched a run across on Holland in the ninth and he wasn't able to complete the game, but no worries. The Texas crowd was electric for every pitch and it's not hard to see that the Rangers have a potential ace on the way here (take a gander a the video and see if you agree).
"He was locating his sinker really well and his slider was deceptive," said Seattle catcher Rob Johnson(notes), who drew the lone walk Holland issued. "He was forcing us to be aggressive. It wasn't one of those nights where you could afford to be patient and wait for our pitch because he was locating the ball."
It was a little surprising that Ron Washington let Holland throw 118 pitches in what turned out to be a lopsided game - Texas led 7-0 into the ninth. Washington claims Holland wasn't going past 120 pitches, no matter what, but it's a curious way to handle your 22-year-old jewel. That said, Holland hadn't worked longer than seven innings in any prior turn, and he's thrown a modest 77.2 innings in 22 appearances (10 starts) with the Rangers, so we can't accuse Washington of abuse here. Holland's consistent struggles have served as a invisible safety net of sorts, keeping his workload down.
What do we do with Holland for the rest of the year in a redraft league? I'm inclined to trust him next week at Oakland, but this isn't someone I'm going to give a long leash to, there's too much red ink on the card. Arlington's park tends to play very small in the summer months and obviously Holland hadn't given us any sort of roto return prior to Thursday's gem.
And we can't close the Holland file without giving a nod to Friday's 4 p.m. trading deadline. The Rangers have said all along that Holland isn't someone they're offering in trade, but the Jays reportedly had a scout at Thursday's game and if Texas is seriously going to make an acceptable pitch for Roy Halladay(notes), you'd have to assume Holland's name would come up. There's been a ton of posturing all over the map with the Halladay chase, but we'll finally see everyone's hole cards in about 12 hours - it's time to see who's serious and who's bluffing. It wouldn't be the biggest shock in the world if Holland was working on his
French translations Canadian accent while headed for points north Friday night.
• The Astros finally cut the cord on Russ Ortiz(notes) after his messy start Thursday and with that an opportunity opens up for buzz prospect and strikeout ace Bud Norris(notes). The 24-year-old righty got the call earlier this week after a strong 19 starts at Triple-A (2.63 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 1.31 WHIP) and he didn't look bad in three relief innings at Wrigley Field Wednesday (one run, four strikeouts). Norris's first start deserves a long scouting look but in most mixed leagues let's take a wait-and-see approach, especially if he subs for Roy Oswalt(notes) (back) against the dangerous Cardinals on Sunday. If Oswalt is able to take the ball, Norris won't toe the rubber until next week against the Giants.
• Another day, another trade for the Pirates; this time it was a five-player swap with the Cubs. Pitchers Kevin Hart(notes) and Jose Ascanio(notes) head to Pittsburgh along with infielder Josh Harrison; the Cubs get reliever John Grabow(notes) and scuffling starter Tom Gorzelanny(notes).
Hart figures to join the Pirates rotation immediately and although he's reaching the age where production is expected (he's 26), he was considered Chicago's No. 6 prospect by Baseball America entering this season. He somehow fashioned a 2.60 ERA with the Cubs over 27.2 innings this year, dancing around 41 baserunners (and a 1.48 WHIP) against just 13 strikeouts. Mixed-league owners can give Hart a wave, but there's no reason to make an immediate point-and-click.
Ascanio has a live fastball and decent strikeout potential and he's settled in nicely as a starter in the minors this year (though the Cubs also gave him 14 appearances as a depth reliever). He'll head to Triple-A for now, a level he's shown some success at this year (3.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.24 K.9). Harrison is a sweet-swinging second baseman who's put up some nice numbers in two Single-A stops this year (.327, 61 runs, 26 steals), but obviously he's several years away from being a factor in Pittsburgh. He was Chicago's sixth-round pick in 2008.
Flip side, the Cubs get a solid depth lefty in Grabow and that's always a valuable thing, though this deal all but eliminates Grabow as a saves-spec guy for the balance of the year. Gorzelanny's in the midst of a solid comeback year in Triple-A (2.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP), but the Cubs aren't going to push on him yet - he'll start off in Iowa, their Triple-A affiliate.
• Lastings Milledge(notes) won't be rotting on the bench when he joins the Pirates Friday - the club confirmed that he'll get a regular spot in the outfield, playing alongside Andrew McCutchen(notes) and Garrett Jones(notes). Brandon Moss(notes) becomes the odd man out in that arrangement, though he might pick up some occasional playing time on the days Jones slides to first base. Milledge is worth a grab in just about any mixed league right now; let's not forget the mad run he went on during the final 52 games of 2008 (.319-30-7-27-11). I put in for a waiver claim on Milledge in the F&F League, but Matt Romig had higher priority and won the bid. Hopefully your path to this intriguing player is a lot simpler, and successful.
• Bobby Jenks(notes) was passed over for a save chance Thursday against the Yankees but don't be alarmed; he's dealing with kidney stones and wasn't even at the stadium. He might be back in the mix this weekend, perhaps as soon as Friday. Matt Thornton(notes) got the call in place of Jenks and couldn't seal the deal (Nick Swisher(notes) tied the game with a two-out homer), but Thornton scored the vulture win in the bottom of the ninth when the White Sox pushed a run across against Phil Hughes(notes).
Injury Blog: Geovany Soto(notes) (oblique) is ready for a rehab assignment and could be back with the Cubs as early as Wednesday. Chicago would love to get Soto back for the Coors Field series next weekend and fantasy owners like the sound of that . . . It was a tough night for Atlanta infielders: Martin Prado(notes) took a line drive off his ankle during pre-game warm-ups, and Yunel Escobar(notes) left the diamond after taking a pitch off his right wrist. We'll see what the club offers up on these guys Friday . . . John Maine(notes) met up with Dr. James Andrews this week and the noted physician confirmed that Maine still has a weak shoulder. There's no current timetable for a Maine return, and sadly, those same indefinite words apply to a lot of his injured teammates as well . . . Jeff Suppan(notes) (rib cage) was put on the 15-day DL Thursday, to the dismay of hitters everywhere. The National League sports a .309 average against Suppan, and he's yielded 141 hits over 114.1 innings. Suppan isn't expected to be out past the minimum . . . J.D. Drew(notes) suffered a leg injury near the end of Thursday's win over Baltimore and probably won't be available Friday . . . Ian Kinsler(notes) (hamstring) didn't play Thursday and remains day-to-day. Washington says he'll keep Kinsler in the leadoff spot going forward.
Speed Round: Cliff Lee(notes) will make his Phillies debut at San Francisco Friday and his first home start comes next week against Colorado. The rest of the road schedule falls nicely for Lee as he settles in with his new league and team; the Phillies don't return to Cincinnati, Arizona or Colorado this year, and there's nothing particularly threatening about the opposing NL East teams and ballparks he'll be up against . . . The Luke Hochevar(notes) story ran out of steam Thursday in Baltimore (6 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 1 BB, 4 K), but I watched nearly every pitch and trust me when I say he threw the ball better than the numbers indicate. The Orioles hurt Hochevar with a four-run rally with two outs in the fifth, fueled by an infield hit by Nick Markakis(notes) (off a poor 0-2 pitch) and a three-run double from Aubrey Huff(notes), a good piece of hitting off a nasty Hochevar offering. I'm not jumping ship here. On the flip side the Orioles got a super effort from underrated rookie Brad Bergesen (7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K), but he had a scary ending to his assignment, taking a line drive off his leg and hobbling off the field in massive pain. Fortunately for the Orioles, X-rays came back negative . . . David Ortiz(notes) didn't seem too affected by the disturbing news of the day; he slugged a key three-run homer in Boston's win over Oakland. Nonetheless it was a tough day for baseball fans in The Hub, as the PED cloud over Ortiz and Manny Ramirez(notes) definitely puts a black mark of sorts on the team's success over the last five years . . . Gavin Floyd(notes) had three pitches working against the Yanks in a dazzling no-decision Thursday (video proof here) and he's really made a statement over his last three turns (21.1 IP, 13 H, 5 R, 6 BB, 24 K). There hasn't been an easy assignment in the mix, as the starts came against New York, Detroit and Tampa. Perhaps it's time to get Floyd into the high teens on the pitching cheat sheet; check back later Friday for a look at the fresh ranks. The Angels strike me as a tricky matchup next week but there's no reason to be gun-shy on Floyd right now.