Holmes trying to prove himself in A's camp

February 27th, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- was the centerpiece prospect acquired by the A’s in a 2016 midseason trade that also brought Frankie Montas and Jharel Cotton over from the Dodgers in exchange for Josh Reddick and Rich Hill. But while the latter two pitchers have already found their way to the Majors, Holmes is still searching for that breakthrough.

Injuries have played a large part in stifling Holmes’ development through the Minors. A right shoulder injury limited him to just two starts in 2018, while bicep tendinitis caused him to miss a good chunk of the first two months of the '19 season. Once he finally got healthy, though, the 23-year-old right-hander got back on track at Double-A Midland.

Holmes began to feel like the pitcher that made him a 2012 first-round Draft pick by the Dodgers again, and it was all thanks to a tweak to his delivery that he hopes will help keep the nagging injuries away.

“After that little setback I had last year in May, I shortened my arm swing a little bit and started feeling really good,” Holmes said. “I just took it from there, and positive things started to come out of it. I was very happy to be able to be healthy and throwing at full capacity.”

Holmes, ranked as the A's No. 14 prospect and their third-best right-handed pitcher by MLB Pipeline, found success with a 3.31 ERA and 76 strikeouts over 81 2/3 innings with Midland. It was a productive season that the A’s ultimately rewarded him for by allowing him to make his final start of the campaign at Triple-A Las Vegas, his likely destination to begin this season.

Expected to join him in that Vegas rotation are fellow right-handers Daulton Jefferies and James Kaprielian, ranked as the club's No. 12 and 13 prospects. The trio of pitchers represent the next wave of talented arms expected to soon make an impact in the Majors following the arrival of top prospects Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk last season.

“We’re in a better position than we have been in the last five or six years with not just the starting pitching, but the depth,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “We’ve got some experience in Triple-A, and feel really good about what we have.”

Holmes understands there’s still work to be done before the organization deems him Major League ready. Fastball command is his main focus this spring, and he’d like to improve his changeup. He’s also taking advantage of the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in the big league clubhouse this spring, observing how more established pitchers like Mike Fiers and Sean Manaea go about their work.

“I try to sit back and watch their tendencies and what they do,” Holmes said of the A’s veteran arms. “If I have a question, I’ll ask. But I kind of just like to sit back, watch them and see what they do. See what their routines are.”

Holmes entered Thursday’s game against the Rockies having thrown two innings in the Cactus League, which is already a win for him after getting just one inning in 2019 before he was sent to Minor League camp. He’ll get more of a chance to show off his stuff in front of the big league coaches, and he plans to take advantage.

“I’m super excited. I feel like I have more of a chance to prove myself,” Holmes said. “Last year, I got one inning and threw seven or eight pitches, so I’m excited to be able to get more than one chance.”