With Holland being eased in, Norris gets save

Gregerson nearing Cards debut, could be late-innings option

April 14th, 2018

CINCINNATI -- When the first save opportunity since Greg Holland arrived in the Cardinals' clubhouse appeared, Holland did not pitch. did. When two runners reached against Norris to bring the winning run to the plate, the Cardinals' bullpen barely stirred.
"It was his," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Two strikeouts later, Norris' second save closed a 5-3 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Holland remained unused, healthy and available. But not the Cardinals' closer, at least not yet.
"It's going to be a little different," Matheny said. "We've re-worked how we're going to go about this."
The pivot in the plan for Holland continues an eventful first week in St. Louis for the reliever. Holland arrived in the Cardinals' clubhouse Monday, after a nearly five-month courtship with the club yielded a one-year, $14 million deal struck on Opening Day. He'd spent 10 days in the Minors in an attempt to simulate Spring Training, making two appearances at Class A Advanced Palm Beach.
Matheny then "threw him into the fire," the manager said, inserting him into the 10th inning of a tie game on his first night with the club. Holland walked four straight hitters, including walking the winning run in with the bases loaded. He issued another free pass in his second appearance, a non-save situation two days later.
"I've walked five hitters and gotten four outs," Holland said.

In the days to follow, Matheny alerted Holland that the club planned to ease him into the role more slowly. Matheny would like to see Holland throw a clean inning. He'd like to see him pitch in back-to-back games. Though he simulated these situations during his offseason workouts, Holland admitted preparing for them at big league game speed is another thing.
"You can't emulate pitching in the big leagues unless you're actually doing that," Holland said. "It's not my job to decide when I pitch. Being a bull-headed relief pitcher, sometimes I don't want to hear what's best. But I'm at the point in my career where I'm not as sharp as I expect to be. Luckily, we have other viable options. As long as we're winning games, I'll be prepared."
Friday, that option was Norris, who was signed as ninth-inning insurance in case the club couldn't land Holland and now appears to have usurped him, at least temporarily. Soon, a chance could go to electric rookie or recovering righty Luke Gregerson, who could join the team as early as Monday in Chicago.

Gregerson, who began the season on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, made his fourth rehab appearance for Palm Beach on Friday. The outing was Gregerson's second in as many days, marking the first time he has pitched in back-to-back games since last season. His Cardinals debut appears imminent.
"We have a lot of guys down there that can do that job," said Norris, who has held opponents to one run over seven appearances. "Holland is definitely that guy, too."