Holland cautious while building game strength

Holland cautious while building game strength

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- While a nice crowd watched -- and wished -- during the Rockies' 8-4 Cactus League-opening victory over the D-backs on Saturday, new closer Greg Holland was on a practice field, quietly working toward making purple dreams come true.

Holland was signed to a one-year contract that guarantees him $7 million with heavy incentives and a vesting option for next season that could pay him at least $10 million and as much as $15 million in base salary. But he's also coming off Tommy John surgery that cost him all of the 2016 season. So his progress happens with care.

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Holland threw just over 20 pitches to hitters Saturday in a modified simulated game, and he will have a similar outing Tuesday. Then the Rockies will evaluate his progress. Holland noted that even when with the Royals -- for whom he was key in 2014, when they won the pennant, and '15, when they won it all -- he often wasn't in games at the beginning of Spring Training.

"I don't know, and I really don't care," Holland said when asked when he anticipates pitching in games. "Obviously, when there's a scoreboard involved and fans in the stands, it's going to be a little added adrenaline. But I'm just getting comfortable, since it's been a while since I've thrown to a live hitter.

"But I understand. I'd like to pitch sooner or later in a real spring game. But the biggest thing is getting comfortable throwing in the strike zone with a hitter standing there, then go from there."

Holland spend the 2016 season rehabbing. He threw for scouts in November, and he went into a normal offseason throwing program, building his arm and his mechanics. That takes time.

"It's just the consistency part of it -- where you can consistently repeat your delivery," Holland said. "You've been throwing since December or January, but there's a little bit different element when you're throwing from a windup or a stretch than 120-foot long toss. Translating that, where everything is working together, takes some time."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.