First, if was Cliff Lee getting his two innings of work in against the Blue Jays in today’s second spring training game of the Grapefruit League season. Nothing special, Jose Bautista going deep, a couple of runs scored and a fastball sitting at 89 mph with an occasional 90 popping up on the scoreboard from Cliff. Lefty Jake Diekman was next and was throwing his 96 mph fastball but was just getting his work in as well because he knows he has a spot in the Phillies bullpen all wrapped up.
Another pitcher Ethan Martin went down with a sore shoulder after throwing several 85 mph fastballs. He joins Jonathan Pettibone as starting pitching prospects who have shoulder problems after the first couple weeks of spring training. Mike Stutes came on and relied on some breaking balls to mask a 87 mph fastball to get out of the inning. Nothing special.
Then came Mario Hollands out of the pen to pitch and I finally perked up sitting in the stands alone the third base line. A fastball sitting at 92-93 mph and a low 80’s breaking pitch to retired the side in order in order for a clean inning. All of the sudden Hollands has trusted himself into contention for a spot in the Phillies bullpen.
Hollands is the second non-roster pitching invitee to shine in games this week for the Phillies after David Buchanan on Tuesday. He has been described as a swing man, a pitcher who can either start of relieve. He has put up some strong number in high A ball but has struggled at AA and AAA in his career. With Clearwater in two season he went 8-2 with a 1.74 ERA. With Reading in two seasons he went 6-7 with a 4.50 ERA and in a brief three game cameo with Lehigh Valley in 2012 he was 0-2 with a 9.24 ERA.
Then in the Venezuela Winter League back a few month ago, it all started to come together for Mario Hollands. In his first seven games, four as a starter, he went 20.1 inning giving up three runs on 16 hits, walking six and striking out 20. Nothing wrong with averaging a strikeout an inning with 3.5 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio. Only in his final game for the La Guardia team in the VWL was he hit hard.
The big 6’5′”, 25 year old left-hander Hollands now joins David Buchanan as non-roster spring training invitees who have emerged as major league pitching prospects in the first week of spring training. He is the ultimate swing man out of the pen who can be stretched out to start, pitch in long relief or be a left-handed one out guy to get a left-handed bat out. He dominated left-handed bats in the VWL.
Still in only the first week of the long six weeks of spring training David Buchanan on Tuesday and now Mario Hollands today have emerged as two feel good stories of the spring so far. And remember a team can never have enough pitching!
Mario Hollands shines in Dunedin: