Holland shines in first Rockies appearance

After Tommy John recovery, new closer tosses perfect inning

Holland shines in first Rockies appearance

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- New Rockies closer Greg Holland had understandable nerves and excitement on Wednesday, pitching in front of fans for the first time in the 18 months since Tommy John surgery.

But before entering in the ninth inning of the Rockies' 5-4 win over the Brewers, his old moxie surfaced during a conversation with his catcher, prospect Jan Vazquez.

"I asked him, 'What've you got?' and he goes, 'One-two-three -- fastball-curve-slider.' I said, 'Out pitch?' And he goes, 'Slider,'" Vazquez said, imitating Holland's half-smile and no-stress wink.

Should Holland make normal progress between now and the regular season, the Rockies will be able to call upon him with confidence.

"I just wanted to stay composed and throw strike one," said Holland, who pitched a perfect ninth inning and earned the win. "It felt a little bit different, until you get into the first hitter, first at-bat. Then you go back to pitching like you know how."

Holland, Black on perfect inning

Holland signed a one-year, $7 million deal -- with incentive clauses and an option for next year -- with the Rockies in the offseason. He has 145 career saves with the Royals (2010-15). He was the closer in '14, when the Royals lost to the Giants in the World Series.

Holland had 32 saves in 2015 through Sept. 18, his last game before undergoing Tommy John. After surgery, he was at least able to celebrate the Royals' World Series championship over the Mets.

In his return, with his new team, Holland's fastball sat mostly at 93 mph, a little below the peak velocity that should come with more outings and regular-season intensity.

Before Wednesday, Holland threw a few simulated games with a batting cage, appeared in a "B" game against the D-backs and pitched in a simulated setting against Minor Leaguers with fielders behind him.

If all goes well, manager Bud Black said Holland could pitch again as early as Saturday. The idea is to have Holland ready for the frequent work a closer could receive. If he needs extra time when the season starts, the Rockies can spell him in the ninth with right-hander Adam Ottavino.

"I'm looking for the quality of the pitch, and today -- 10 pitches in a quick look -- it was a good outing from the standpoint that he hasn't been out here in this type of setting," Black said.

Holland said, "I felt the ball was coming out of my hand well, and hitters will let you know. I thought my timing and rhythm were good."

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.