Holland: Missing the start of spring training will have 'an effect' on Bryce Harper

Josh Luckenbaugh
February 18, 2019 - 10:30 am

The Nationals' first full squad workout of spring traning began on Monday, Feb. 17, as it did for over half the clubs in baseball. However, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and a host of other marquee names are not participating, as they remain unsigned free agents.

Greg Holland, who appeared in 24 games for Washington last season and signed with the Diamondbacks in January, knows exactly what it feels like to miss spring training, and it's not good at all. 

Holland hit the free agent market in 2017 after a stellar season with the Rockies in which he led the National League in saves and earned his third career All-Star Game appearance. However, he went unsigned until two days after Opening Day of the 2018 season, signing a one-year deal with the Cardinals on March 31.

"It's easy to say, 'Be patient,' but at this time of year, you don’t have any patience," Holland told USA TODAY Sports on what it's like to miss spring training. "It's almost like a stalemate type of thing. I hope guys can hook on with a team quickly and not miss too much of spring training."

"Looking back, it definitely had an effect on me."

In particular, Holland feels missing spring training didn't allow him to develop the necessary clubhouse chemistry with his teammates.

"I think it hurts everyone," he said. "When I signed, guys in the [Cardinals] clubhouse embraced me, but I didn’t have those two months of spring training where I could really interact and build relationships with a lot of guys in the clubhouse."

"I think for anyone, you want to build relationships and have that (rapport) with your teammates. I've been in clubhouses that meshed really well, and that quantifies into a lot of wins, having that time together."

Additionally, Holland explained how it's impossible to simulate facing MLB talent when you're not with a big league team.

"You’re throwing to college guys, and a week later you’re pitching in the major leagues in a tie game. You can only emulate so much of a big-league game," said Holland.

"Pitchers need to pitch to major-league hitters and hitters need to face living pitching from major-league pitchers. The quicker you can get into a scenario where you're facing major-league talent on a consistent basis, you're going to be more successful."

Holland struggled mightily in his 32 appearances for the Cardinals last season, recording a 7.92 ERA and blowing all three of his save opportunities. St. Louis released him on Aug. 1, and the Nats signed him less than a week later.

"I don't like to make excuses, but when you pitch to an 8.00 ERA, there’s got to be some varying circumstances around it," Holland said. "You want to do well because you want to make good on your contract, you got there late, and I might have rushed myself when I probably wasn’t ready. I put a lot of undue pressure on myself.

"It all kind of snowballed for me and spiraled out of control for me."

And with former teammate Harper and several other stars set to miss at least the start of spring training, Holland believes something has to change. 

"In a perfect world, teams and players would be much happier if they got things done in a more timely manner than having this stuff drag out," the 33-year old said. "There's a business aspect to it, for sure, but I don't think players are trying to hold teams hostage or anything. They want to be on teams. And they can help teams win."

"That's what this game is supposed to be about, winning. If you want to win, you're supposed to have the best players on your team. We shouldn't have the best players in the world still out looking for jobs."

"It has got to change because it's hurting everybody."

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