Derek Holland entered Sunday at 4-7 with a 5.60 ERA in 82 innings, but hurled a complete-game shutout against the Angels, striking out eight with just one walk and three hits. Holland also had a near-complete game against the Mariners last week, striking out 10, walking one, and allowing two hits in 8.2 innings of one-run ball, so the 22-year-old southpaw may be on the verge of a sustained breakout.
According to Baseball America he was Texas’ second-best prospect behind only Neftali Feliz coming into the season and Holland has a strong 77/30 K/BB ratio in 91 innings. His biggest problem has been serving up 14 homers and keeping the ball in the ballpark could be a career-long struggle in Texas, but he induces quite a few grounders, misses plenty of bats with mid-90s heat, and has ace upside.
While the Rangers break in extremely promising young pitching during a pennant race, here are some other notes from around baseball …
* Not only was Matt Palmer demoted to the bullpen last month despite going 8-1 in a dozen starts, he’s being passed over in favor of 22-year-old prospect Trevor Bell with the Angels needing a fill-in starter Wednesday versus the Rays. Palmer was nowhere near as good as his record suggests and has posted a putrid 55/42 K/BB ratio in 91.2 innings overall, but it’s still surprising to see Bell get the nod.
Bell is certainly a quality prospect and the former first-round pick has a 2.70 ERA in 22 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season, but 87 strikeouts in 140 innings and a modest ground-ball rate make him highly unlikely to have that kind of success in the majors. He could have some AL-only value if he sticks around, but Tampa Bay is a very tough first assignment and his upside is limited.
* Junichi Tazawa’s big-league debut involved coming into a 0-0 game in the 14th inning and serving up a walk-off homer to Alex Rodriguez at Yankee Stadium, so replacing John Smoltz in the rotation Tuesday should be a relative piece of cake. Detroit is a favorable first matchup, because the Tigers rank 10th in the league in OPS against right-handers, but Tazawa isn’t a viable mixed-league option yet.
AL Quick Hits: Scott Kazmir failed to make it out of the fifth inning Sunday, giving up seven runs for the fourth time in 10 starts … Roy Halladay picked up his 12th win Sunday by tossing at least eight innings for the 10th time in 22 starts … Jake Westbrook had a setback in his recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery and is now unlikely to pitch this season … Michael Cuddyer went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers Sunday, giving him eight long balls since July 1 … Brian Matsutz had a rough second career outing Sunday, getting chased in the third inning … Marco Scutaro went 4-for-5 with a career-high 10th homer Sunday … Brett Cecil won’t make his next start after an MRI revealed two small tears in his left knee, but is hoping to avoid the disabled list … Jarrod Washburn struggled Sunday and has now allowed 11 runs in two Tigers starts … Brett Anderson has allowed just 13 runs in his last eight outings after another Quality Start on Sunday.
NL Quick Hits: Aaron Harang snapped a streak of seven straight losses Sunday by beating Matt Cain … Johan Santana is tied for the NL lead with 13 wins after throwing eight innings of one-run ball Sunday … Milwaukee acquired setup man David Weathers from Cincinnati for a player to be named later … Josh Johnson held the Phillies to one run over seven innings Sunday as the Marlins completed a three-game sweep … Wandy Rodriguez returned from a hamstring injury with seven shutout innings Sunday … Chris Coghlan extended his multi-hit streak to eight games with four knocks Sunday … Tim Stauffer lowered his ERA to 2.90 by allowing one run in five innings Sunday, but fell to 1-4 … Jason Hammel won Sunday despite surrendering 11 hits in five innings … Adam Rosales was 3-for-4 with a homer Sunday while subbing for Scott Rolen (concussion) … Aaron Cook will miss Tuesday’s start with turf toe, but hopes to take his turn Saturday.