CHICAGO -- The Cardinals are calling what Greg Holland is going through a "Spring Training phase."
Meanwhile, Bud Norris appears to be in midseason form.
Norris notched a five-out save to close out the Cardinals' 5-3 series-opening win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday. On a night when the Cardinals finally had their three veteran late-inning additions in the bullpen at the same time, it was Norris striking out three to shut the door while Holland and Luke Gregerson watched.
"What Bud did tonight was fantastic," manager Mike Matheny said.
Norris only had a save opportunity because of Holland's struggles in the eighth. Called on to hold a four-run lead, Holland walked his first batter before allowing a rocket of a two-run homer to Javier Baez. With a 111.3-mph exit velocity, it was the hardest home run Holland has allowed in his career.
"We still know what Greg Holland is going to do," Matheny said. "But he's still going through that Spring Training phase, and we have guys behind him who can pick him up."
Matheny keeps saying that at some point Holland will be called upon to close games. That's why the club signed the three-time All-Star to a one-year, $14 million contract on Opening Day. But right now he's still searching for his form, having walked six batters over 2 1/3 innings. He has faced 14 batters in four appearances and retired just seven of them.
"It'll be there over the long haul," Matheny said. "Right now he's still trying to get it."
The irony is that the Cards signed Norris to a one-year, $3 million contract this spring as insurance in case they couldn't reel in Holland, whom they pursued all winter. Now, with both in the fold, Norris is still providing insurance. And it's of the elite variety.
Norris has struck out 17 hitters in 9 1/3 innings and stranded all 10 runners he's inherited.
"He's showing every reason we should assume he's going to finish the game for us," infielder Matt Carpenter said. "We believe in the ninth inning he's going to shut the door."
Norris is relishing the opportunity after getting a taste of closing last season, when he saved 19 games for the Angels.
"I know I can still pitch at the highest level and I can get the best hitters in the game out," Norris said. "I didn't know what this year would entail, but making the team out of camp and getting a couple of opportunities here meant everything to me."