Holland perfect in new role as Royals closer
Right-hander notches his first save of the season against Indians
KANSAS CITY -- Greg Holland said his new role would be similar to his last one, but when he took the mound for the first time as the Royals' closer on Wednesday, he admittedly felt different.
The right-hander said he was a little extra "amped up" before going out for the ninth inning, but soon calmed down and was able to set three Indians hitters down in order to pick up his first save of the season.
But why was Holland -- who had been steadfast in saying that the approach in the ninth is the same as in other innings -- amped up?
"I don't know. I think having to answer all these questions the last few days maybe," said Holland, who had five career saves entering Thursday's series finale.
Holland was named the team's closer on Tuesday after Jonathan Broxton was traded to Cincinnati. Holland's first save chance came with the Royals leading the Indians, 5-2. Holland pitched a perfect ninth to seal Kansas City's second win in the three-game series, and credited manager Ned Yost for preparing him and his teammates well for the situation.
"It's really no different. I've pitched in some tough situations. Ned's done a good job of that the last two years with all of us down in the bullpen: getting us in those tough situations so if something like this happens where [Joakim] Soria gets hurt, Broxton gets traded, somebody's going to step in," Holland said. "I'm confident that any of us can do it because we've been in those situations in the seventh and eighth inning with runners on in close games. You've just got to take it like it's another inning."
Manager Ned Yost said that, while the bullpen had several good options, Holland was the obvious choice to replace Broxton.
"If there's any team that could do a closer by committee, I think we could do it. We can match up really well down there in the ninth inning," Yost said. "But Holland deserves the shot to be closer. He's been effective against both left- and right-handers, he's been banging strikes, he's got great stuff and he's got good mound presence, good composure."
Holland's performance was a stark contrast from Broxton's typical outings, which usually featured multiple baserunners and a whole lot of drama. But Broxton typically managed to escape with the save, a trait that Holland admired.
"I think I'm about 99 short of him," Holland said, referencing Broxton's 107 career saves. "If you're a closer, you're going to be in those situations where you don't have your best stuff sometimes, or you give up a weak groundball hit and now the tying run's on first base. But he did a great job for us, fourth in the league in saves. I hope I can get to that point in my career."
In addition to his first save since Sept. 25, 2011, Holland also was named the Royals' Pitcher of the Month for July on Wednesday.
Yost hopes Frenchy benefits from time off
KANSAS CITY -- The Frenchy Quarter will again have to wait to see their favorite player. Right fielder Jeff Francoeur was out of the Royals' lineup for the fourth straight game on Thursday, a Frenchy Quarter Thursday promotion night at Kauffman Stadium.
Francoeur's struggles at the plate have earned him a break from the lineup, and manager Ned Yost expanded on the benefits of such a break.
"It gives you an opportunity to spend some time in the cage and work on some areas you need to work on, plus it kind of cleanses your mind a little bit, because it gets you to take a step back and relax a little bit if you allow yourself to do it," Yost said.
Francoeur did make a late appearance on Thursday as a pinch-runner for Billy Butler in the 10th inning, but the Royals walked off with a win in the 11th before he got a turn at the plate.
In the four games Francoeur was held out of the lineup, his replacement, Jarrod Dyson, went 8-for-14 with two doubles, a triple, two runs scored and a pair of RBIs.
When asked if he could envision a platoon situation between Francoeur and Dyson, Yost said it was a possibility.
"The thing about this game is that in order to be successful, you've got to be productive. And if the production's not there, then yeah, it could become a platoon situation. I don't think we're there yet, but [Francoeur's] a guy that we counted on a lot for production this year," Yost said. "I think this little bit of a break is going to help him get back to where he was. It's not been from lack of trying, but the bottom line is -- for all of us -- is that we step on the field and we produce. If we're a pitcher, if we're a hitter, if we're a fielder, if we're a baserunner, if we're a coach or if we're a manager, production and winning ballgames is all that matters up here."
Yost said that Francoeur would start Friday's game against Rangers lefty Matt Harrison. Yost continued to give his rationale for why other slumping Royals, past and present, have been allowed to continue to play every day, while Francoeur is getting time off.
"There is a certain element of development that goes on, which is why [Eric] Hosmer gets a longer leash or [Mike Moustakas] gets a longer leash or [Alcides] Escobar got a longer leash last year. We're trying to get them into a position where they can be consistent producers," Yost said. "But the bottom line is are we getting the job done as a team and are you getting the job done as an individual?"
Back to School Drive continues on Friday
KANSAS CITY -- Friday's series opener with the Rangers marks the second day of the annual Royals' Back to School Drive, which benefits the Kansas City public schools' homeless student program. The drive is expected to provide supplies for about 1,500 students.
Fans can make monetary contributions and receive Royals autographs. A fan making a $40 donation receives an autographed Royals baseball, while a $10 donation nets an autographed photo card.
Additionally, Friday is Retro Night, and the first 20,000 fans will receive a Mr. Royal retro lunchbox.
Outfielder Alex Gordon picked up his 37th double of the season in the second inning of Wednesday's win against the Indians -- giving him the Major League lead entering play on Thursday. It was Gordon's 169th career double, which ranks 12th on the Royals' all-time list.
Saturday's game between the Royals and Rangers begins at 5:10 p.m. CT. The one hour earlier start time is due to postgame events as part of Faith and Family Day featuring a speech by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and performances by Christian entertainers.
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.