Holliday on tough start: 'I just need to relax'

Amid 0-for-11 stretch, No. 1 prospect says 'it's going to take some time to adjust'

April 13th, 2024

BALTIMORE -- The Major Leagues aren’t the Minor Leagues. It’s taken only three games with the Orioles for to see firsthand how much tougher it is to face elite pitchers at the highest level.

“Guys are pitching a little bit different versus working on things. They’re trying to get you out,” said Holliday, MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect. “It’s been a little bit different, and obviously, it’s going to take some time to adjust. But I take pride in being able to adjust pretty fast, and just looking forward to keep learning and to grow my game.”

Holliday, who rapidly ascended the Minor League ranks, is gaining valuable experience, but he has yet to break through for that elusive first MLB hit. The 20-year-old went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in Baltimore’s series-opening 11-1 loss to Milwaukee at Camden Yards on Friday night. He’s now hitless over his first 11 big league plate appearances, having struck out seven times.

After difficult assignments against Red Sox starters Kutter Crawford and Garrett Whitlock the previous two nights, Brewers All-Star right-hander Freddy Peralta proved to be Holliday’s toughest test yet. Peralta tossed six innings of one-run ball with 11 strikeouts, including a pair at Holliday’s expense.

It’s been clear why Holliday hasn’t broken through quite yet, beginning with his aggressiveness early in the count. He fell behind 0-2 in all three of his plate appearances on Friday -- just like he did once on Wednesday and three times on Thursday.

Of the 48 pitches Holliday has seen, he’s swung at 22 -- 13 resulting in whiffs.

Fortunately for Holliday, he has a dad -- seven-time All-Star and former 15-year MLB player Matt Holliday -- who can give him tips during trying times.

“He looks like he might be pressing a little bit,” Matt Holliday told Tricia Whitaker on Friday’s Apple TV+ broadcast. “He’s faced three really good starters, and in this league, there’s just no soft landing spots. It’s a challenge, it’s a grind every day. But he’s up for the task. He just needs to get that first one and take a deep breath, and then I think that it will relax him a little bit.”

That can be tough when there are 32,205 fans packed into Camden Yards for Holliday’s highly anticipated home debut. Many of them even received Holliday giveaway T-shirts as they came through the turnstiles on Friday evening.

All week, the national spotlight has been on Holliday, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. And that can be tough for any new big league player to deal with, especially one as young as the former Stillwater (Okla.) High School standout.

“I just want to see him get comfortable as soon as possible,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We just need him to relax a little bit and play, because it’s not easy to play when there’s higher expectations than there already should be and anticipation and all that kind of stuff. And to be 20 years old on top of all that.”

Colton Cowser, a former Top 100 prospect himself, can surely relate. He hit .115 during a 26-game debut stint last season. Now, he’s Baltimore’s hottest hitter, continuing his torrid start Friday with a 2-for-3 performance that featured a double and his third MLB homer (all of which have come in the past two nights).

“Jackson, he's a special guy, a special player. And he's really, really mature. I think he's going about it the right way right now, you see it in his work,” said Cowser, who is hitting .481 (13-for-27) through 12 games. “I'm looking forward to whenever he gets things going.”

Everybody with the Orioles is confident that will happen soon, including Holliday.

Peralta is a top-tier pitcher, but Holliday also felt his over-aggressiveness at the plate, saying he “shouldn’t have chased a few” of the righty’s offerings. It’s something Holliday will learn from and take into his next game, which could be Saturday.

But first, Holliday planned to talk with his dad a bit on Friday night. And he was expecting some of the same advice he’d been hearing this week.

“Just to keep swinging,” Holliday said. “I think I just need to relax a little bit. I feel really comfortable on defense, and trying to maybe press a little bit too much on offense. But it will come.”