Confident Derek Holland relaxed in relief

ARLINGTON, Texas -- As far as Derek Holland knows, he'll continue to pitch in relief in the World Series against the San Francisco Giants. That would suggest that Tommy Hunter will get the start in Game 4, but nothing is set until Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington announces his intentions and he did not do that Sunday.

But, what's important is that Holland, the promising, young left-hander who hasn't quite put it all together, is finally feeling relaxed in the big leagues. The kid tends to stress, work himself into a lather, and "that's when everything goes wrong," he said.

He got off to two slow starts in the ALDS, but in two scoreless appearances over 5 2/3 innings against the New York Yankees in the ALCS, Holland is breathing easier. He owes some of that stress relief to his manager.

Washington told him in Game 3 of the ALDS that he had to just relax. Washington used a rather colorful description about a particular body part that might tend to tighten up in a pressure situation to get his point across.

"Wash knows how I am," Holland said. "He wants me to relax and have a good time and that's what he was doing."

And Holland has been dealing. He was the pitcher of record in the 10-3 win over the Yankees in Game 4 after taking over for Hunter, who couldn't get out of the fourth inning. Holland allowed one hit and struck out three in 3 2/3 innings. He kept his team in the game until the offense exploded to blow the game open.

Holland said the Yankee series did this for him: "Lot of confidence and I got the guys right behind me even more and that's something that we all want. It just shows that I belong here and I can pitch in the postseason."

His manager agrees: "He's been outstanding," Washington said. "He's grown up a heck of a lot. He's made adjustments with his pitching style, he's throwing the ball over the plate with more consistency, he's using all his pitches and he's very confident right now."

Washington also said Sunday that right now Holland is a good fit in middle relief. Holland said he's fine with filling his current role and is unconcerned with the prospect of possibly starting Game 4.

"That doesn't bother me at all. I'm happy to be here," Holland said. "I'm ready to do whatever they want me to do. Whenever that phone rings I'll be ready."