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Holland putting 'dog days' of spring behind him

Rangers lefty ready to erase memories of injury-filled 2014 season

ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Derek Holland is tired of all the dog jokes.

"Definitely," Holland said. "It is what it is, you've got to have fun with it but it does get tiring. Most of it is the same thing, 'Don't trip over your dog, don't ruin our season like you did last time.' Those are from the fans. My teammates have turned the page."

Holland tripped over his dog a week into 2014 and suffered torn cartilage in his left knee. He missed the first five months of the season, the first in a long series of injuries which hurt the Rangers.

A year ago, Holland was still on crutches going into Spring Training. Now, he is in camp early and has already thrown off the mound six times. Pitchers and catchers don't officially report until Friday, but most of them are here now and worked out Tuesday morning in the Arizona sunshine.

None may be more eager to get started than Holland.

"You have no idea," Holland said. "Last year I was really jacked up and excited. I felt it was going to be a big year. Things didn't go our way, but the dog days are over."

Holland must be excited if he's throwing in his own dog jokes as well.

"I feel great," Holland said. "I worked my tail off this winter and the training staff did a great job getting me ready. I feel happy and confident. I expect big things this year."

Video: HOU@TEX: Holland pitches into 8th to earn second win

The Rangers got a small glimpse in September of what they missed for five months. Holland pitched in six games and was 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA.

But Holland, by his own admission, has tantalized the Rangers before with similar stretches of brilliance. His 8 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 4 of the 2011 World Series may stand as the greatest pitching performance in Rangers history.

Holland, though, is tired of "stretches." He is eager to put a full season together, the kind of season that will make people stand up and take notice.

"My expectations are high," Holland said. "There are still a lot of things I need to prove. I haven't hit my peak yet. I am not happy with the way my career has started off. It could be better. I want it to be better. I am tired of not being what I should be."

Holland won a career-high 16 games in 2011 and signed a five-year $28.5 million extension the following spring. But he is 24-16 with a 3.77 ERA combined over the past three years. That doesn't even come close to satisfying Holland.

"The thing is, people talk about the game in the World Series or those stints like September," Holland said. "I don't want to be known as a one-game wonder or for little stints. I want to be the guy who has Hall of Fame numbers. There have been some good games, but there is a lot more there. I'm capable of being a No. 1 or No. 2 starter."

So his goal for 2015 is simple.

"I want to make a statement," Holland said. "I want to do something. I don't want to be a one-hit wonder. I want to be here a while and I want to make people notice me."

That would put the Fido jokes to rest.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.
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