Surprise position outlook: No. 3 starter

Editor's Note: Pitching is still on our minds this week with our Surprise position outlooks.

Today's position: No. 3 starter

Derek Holland took a step back in 2012. And he knows it. After a terrific finish to 2011 where he put up one of the best postseason performances in franchise history in his Game 4 World Series start, Holland arrived at spring training ready to prove that what he accomplished in the second half of 2011 was something he could duplicate for a whole season.

Holland signed a five-year, $28.5 million deal with two club options before the season began. He's slated to be a part of this club's core for years to come. But to solidify that spot, Holland must step up in 2013.

He was 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA in 27 starts (175 1/3 innings) in 2012. His ERA was nearly three-quarters of a run higher than in 2011 and he didn't pitch as many innings, thanks to disabled list stint for left shoulder fatigue. Holland wasn't at 100 percent for the whole season and that's one thing he wants to fix in 2013.

But the long ball was also a problem. Holland allowed 32 home runs in 2013, fifth most in the American League. That's something Holland wants to cut down.

Holland is a hard worker and he wants to get better. He's been working this offseason on getting stronger and is highly motivated for the upcoming season. He said he wants to follow Matt Harrison's blueprint (a smart move) and he asked and received a chance to sit down with Rangers CEO and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan to discuss what he could improve on. Among the things that Holland talked to Ryan about: Working different sides of the plate and staying in the game longer. The key is location.

"He said I’ve got to stay focused out there and not do too much to over-think things," Holland said earlier this offseason. "Just go out there and grind it out. He agreed with me on working on location, which is something I asked him about. The only time I got beat was missing spots. And if I got beat, too, it would be a home run. I gave up too many. It’s not that I was trying to pitch like I did in the minor leagues where I could blow a fastball by you anywhere and not have to worry about location, it was that I missed spots."

It's a big year for Holland to prove he can get back to the guy that was so solid down the stretch in 2011 and in Game 4 of the World Series. The good news for Rangers fans is that Holland knows it and is already at work.