The Texas Rangers have made it very clear that the solution to their ongoing pitching problems rests on the arms of their two prized pitching prospects.
Both Baseball America and ESPN have deemed the Texas Rangers farm system to be the best in baseball for 2009. The Rangers' prized pitching possessions are 20—year—old, right-hander Neftali Feliz (fourth overall prospect, according to ESPN) and 22—year—old, left-hander, Derek Holland (No. 21 overall).
On Wednesday night, Holland made his Major League debut out of the bullpen in Toronto.
Not to throw the kid to the wolves, he came into the sixth inning with Texas losing 6—3, having bases loaded, and with two outs. On top of that, he was pitching to one of the hottest hitters in baseball, outfielder Adam Lind.
With the boyish looks of a 16—year—old, Holland threw his first pitch, a 97 mph fastball for a called first strike. He followed that with a 96 mph fastball for strike two. After a high pitch and then a foul, Holland’s fifth pitch, a 97 mph fastball, was put into to play.
Lind took the ball down the third base line. Michael Young snagged it, but couldn’t throw out the fast—moving Lind at first.
Holland then faced seasoned veteran Scott Rolen. Not too rattled, he stuck with his fastball.
The first was low for a ball, but on the next two Rolen could only foul off as they both touched 97 mph. Holland then threw a 1—2 slider getting Rolen to pop-out to shortstop Omar Vizquel.
In the seventh, Holland threw 12 pitches. Only three were balls as he got all three batters out, consistently hitting 95-96 mph.
In the eighth, with the Rangers down 7-4, Holland faced four batters. He threw 18 pitches allowing one hit from Alex Rios. Only six were balls and he, again, hit 94-95 mph with his fastball, striking out both Aaron Hill and Vernon Wells.
He came out for the ninth; But after allowing a lead-off hit to Lind, Holland was pulled from the game.
In the end, the kid pitched 2.1 innings throwing 42 pitches (29 for strikes) and allowed three hits while striking out two.
The Rangers may have ended up losing the game, but for a Major League debut on the road with those numbers, I’m excited about his future.
The scouts all said that this kid will throw strikes and throw strikes he did. He's got fastballs with movement that consistently hit 94-95 mph and the ability to touch 97 mph.
Did I mention that he also throws strikes?
Maybe this is what the Rangers need. Too many times have we seen young pitchers that have good stuff, but can’t consistently find the strike zone. Those pitchers may get some good strike outs, but they also have too many walks.