GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Optimistic might not be a strong enough word for how Derek Holland feels at the moment.
He doesn’t want to oversell it, but the new White Sox pitcher not only believes he’s in a good spot physically, he also thinks he’s in the right place to rebound from three frustrating seasons full of injuries.
After spending his entire career with the Texas Rangers, Holland said he chose the White Sox not only because of their reputation for keeping players healthy, but also because of pitching coach Don Cooper’s successful track record with southpaw pitchers. Holland, who signed a one-year deal in December that could be worth $8 million, said he’s already very pleased with his decision to join the White Sox.
“I feel great,” Holland said. “I mean, I don’t know how to rally describe it without sounding crazy, but I feel awesome. I want to use some crazy words, but I have to remember this is the media.”
Holland participated in his first bullpen session on Tuesday and cracked that it went well other than he was throwing next to Jose Quintana, who already appears to be in outstanding form as he prepares for the World Baseball Classic.
But Holland, who produced 8.6 f-WAR from 2011-13, said the health issues that have dogged the past three seasons aren’t presently an issue. Whichever way he opted to go in free agency --- the White Sox or Pittsburgh Pirates --- Holland felt comfortable. Ultimately, it was Cooper’s vision for helping him rebound that sold him on the White Sox.
“Both have good histories with the pitchers and Coop just kept nailing me, talking to me, ‘There’s some things I want to work on, I know what we can get right. I saw some things,’” Holland said. “We continued, just kept talking about stuff and I know these are things in need to get back on track and to be successful. And that was it. Once he started hammering down on me I was like, ‘Alright, we’re going with the White Sox.’”
Holland thinks he knows what he and Cooper have to do to get back on track and he’s ready to get to work. He’s also comfortable enough to know when to let his hair down and do impersonations in the clubhouse -- Harry Caray, Kermit the Frog and Cleveland from ‘The Family Guy’ are among them. Holland is a big believer in having fun equivalent to the amount of work he puts in and has enjoyed meeting a room full of new teammates, though he’s already butchered several names -- “I’ve met a few guys like five times already,” he said.
Manager Rick Renteria said Wednesday he’s glad to have Holland around as his personality is necessary for a young club. He knows about the impersonations and the all-around character that is Holland and intends to tap into the resource at some point for the sake of his baseball team.
“It’s awesome,” Renteria said. “As we get to know him a little bit more, we are going to take advantage of it, exploit it a little bit. He’s a happy go lucky guy. Very focused. Very intent on his work. Knows what he wants to do. He’s been around. We’ll take advantage of it and use it to liven up the clubhouse a little bit.”
Holland has already done his part, singing in the ear of catcher Geovany Soto about being reunited and taking reliever Tommy Kahnle to the WWE Elimination Chamber event over the weekend. In a perfect world, Holland would reach 200 innings this season and have a lot of fun along the way.
“I am who I am,” Holland said. “I don't want the impersonations being used against me -- the thing that gets lost in translation is that people think that's what I'm really working on when I'm actually here trying to get myself better. I just have a personality, I want to live my life, have fun, enjoy myself and play the game of baseball at the same time. I know how hard I work and what it takes to be out there on the field. But my personality should not dictate that.”