Holloway's 1st start: Lessons and clean shave

May 11th, 2021

After opening the season with five scoreless appearances out of the bullpen, Marlins right-hander ’s first Major League start was a lesson in the challenge of facing a lineup multiple times. Holloway was chased in the fourth inning in Miami's 5-2 defeat to Arizona on Monday night at Chase Field. In dropping the opener of its second consecutive three-city, 10-game trip, the Marlins have lost three in a row.

The 24-year-old allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits in 3 2/3 frames. Twice he ran into no-out, bases-loaded situations. In the first, Holloway permitted consecutive doubles and a walk -- with three of the pitches in the dirt. Following a mound meeting with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., in which he told the rookie to focus down in the zone and induce a ground ball. Holloway did just that, getting a run-scoring forceout and a double play.

But a three-run third began with a free pass to opposing pitcher Luke Weaver, something that led to Holloway shaving his facial hair postgame because "I think my mustache had walks in it, so I'm done with it." Holloway admitted the game sped up on him, but he took the experience as a learning opportunity. In the future, he knows what it takes to escape jams better.

"I felt like I prepared myself well enough, just didn't have the best stuff and I didn't have the best command tonight," said Holloway, who walked three and struck out one. "Obviously don't want to walk the pitcher, you don't want to put yourself into a situation that's a little more unfortunate than you need to. That's really just the difference."

Manager Don Mattingly highlighted the missed location on pitches. Holloway was unable to put away the first two batters despite getting ahead in the count 0-2. Instead of burying a breaking ball or going up and in with a fastball, the offerings stayed well within the strike zone.

Miami's No. 22 prospect entered Monday having not allowed a run in 10 innings, even picking up a win in last Wednesday's bullpen game. He had never pitched above High-A until being named to the Opening Day expanded roster last July, making one appearance before going on the injured list amid the club's coronavirus outbreak.

"You learn about the specificity of where you have to throw balls, and when you're ahead in the count you have the hammer, you have that guy on the run and you've got him in trouble," Mattingly said. "And that's where if you're going to make a mistake, it's going to be on the higher-than-high side or lower-than-low side because you have pitches to play with. He's the one in trouble. I think, obviously, Jordan's a young pitcher and not with a ton of experience, but with great stuff, and he's going to learn from every outing, just as we watched Trevor [Rogers] learn last year from his outings. So I'd say absolutely there's something to learn from it."

The Marlins have one of the best starting-pitching trios in Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López and Rogers. All three rank within the top 20 in WAR for National League starters. But rounding out the rotation has proven to be difficult with Elieser Hernandez and Sixto Sánchez sidelined. Holloway, rookie lefty Daniel Castano, No. 10 prospect Nick Neidert and Rule 5 Draft pick Paul Campbell have combined for a 6.38 ERA in nine starts.

Holloway had been following the same trajectory as Campbell, who received the bulk of the work in the club's first bullpen game on April 25. Campbell then got his first Major League start the next time out, only to be suspended two days later for a positive PED test.

Entering Monday, Holloway was using a three-pitch mix of a slider (50 percent), four-seamer (39.5 percent) and curveball (10.5 percent). In his 68-pitch outing, he went with 49 percent four-seamers, 41 percent sliders, nine percent curveballs and one percent changeups. His velocity was also down in a starting role.

"I think just the difference is try not to be as predictable," said Holloway, whose mom was in attendance. "I wanted to utilize my other pitches more than just the fastball and the slider, and I unfortunately didn't do that. I need to do a better job of that. I have a curveball and a changeup that I need to utilize a little bit more in the future. So that would be what I'm going to try to work on just a little bit, just to kind of sequence a little better than just fastball/slider. That's the only difference of starting an outing compared to just going in there for a couple outs or an out or an inning or two innings."