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Hollands finally getting chance to make impression

After two years of couch surfing through Minor Leagues, lefty could make '14 roster

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Mario Hollands spent 2012 bouncing around between Minor League cities and teammates' couches. He spent 2013 regaining his rhythm.

After an impressive spring, the non-roster left-hander could be spending some time with the Phillies in 2014.

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"We haven't made any final decisions," Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Thursday morning. "He's done well enough and certainly put himself in a position to be one of the guys to be considered."

In eight Grapefruit League outings, the 25-year-old Hollands has put together a 3.18 ERA, allowing 10 hits and five walks while striking out 10 batters in 11 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-5 lefty has opened a lot of eyes this Spring Training and, as Amaro said, earned a long look for one of the last spots on the Phillies' pitching staff.

Not bad for a guy who slept in so many people's living rooms two years ago that he couldn't even remember them all. In fact, he's just happy to have lasted this long in big league camp.

"It's been really fun," the soft-spoken Hollands said outside the Phillies' clubhouse at Bright House Field. "It's been a real honor being up here the whole time. ... I always wanted to leave a good impression."

That's an understandable sentiment for a non-roster pitcher invited to Major League camp, especially one who barely had time in 2012 to make a first impression. He made five stops with four of Philadelphia's Minor League affiliates, from Class A Lakewood all the way up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

By the time he made it to Lehigh Valley, he was physically exhausted, unable to muster up the arm strength to pitch the way he knew he could.

"I was all over the place. That was pretty tough. I never really had a home, never was comfortable," Hollands said. "I never relaxed anywhere. Never knew where I was going to pitch, or start or relieve -- that's still the case. It was pretty tiring, because I just was always on the move."

Hollands retraced his steps from that season Thursday morning. During his first stint at Double-A Reading, he stayed with Trevor May, David Buchanan and Tyson Gillies. When he was bumped to Class A Advanced Clearwater, he wound up with Zach Collier "and about seven other people," he said, laughing. The callup to Triple-A provided a welcome relief: his own hotel room. What about when he came back to Reading for the playoffs?

"I might have been in a hotel, but I might have been back in that house. I really don't remember," Hollands said. "But I was sleeping in the living room [the first time] I was in Reading. We had a bed in the living room. So I was all over the place."

Hollands followed up that nomadic campaign with a more consistent 2013 season. He made three relief appearances with Reading before getting into a groove as a starter in Clearwater, recording a 1.56 ERA and .588 opponents' OPS in 14 games from May 3 through July 10. He moved back to Reading and logged a 4.06 ERA in 57 2/3 innings (10 starts).

Hollands then received the Phillies' blessing to pitch in the Venezuelan Winter League for Tiburones de La Guaira. He spent 2 1/2 months there, put up a 2.45 ERA, stayed for the postseason and had nothing but good things to say about the players, fans and the impact it had on him..

"It helped, confidence-wise, and working on different pitches -- and just experience," he said. "That's helped me grow, just from the success from last year."

Indeed, it's seemed to carry over into this spring. With a funky, deceptive delivery, he's proven capable of handling any role for the Phillies, whether it's as a starter, one-inning reliever, long man or situational lefty.

There's more to the laid-back Hollands than pitching, too. He just finished up some online courses with the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, working toward a degree in merchandise marketing that he hopes to complete in June or July.

Hollands graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2010 with a degree in sociology before the Phillies took him in the 10th round of the Draft. He hopes his latest academic pursuit will pay off whenever he's done with baseball.

"It was a little hard during the beginning of spring. I did some homework here during some of the downtime," Hollands said with a grin. "But if you can graduate from Santa Barbara and get drafted, you can do anything."

As of Thursday morning, Hollands hadn't been given any indication about his chances of making the big league club or where he would start the season if he heads back to the Minors. Either way, it seems his days of couch surfing might be behind him.

"It's not a big deal for me. They'll tell me at some time. I'm in no rush. I'll do whatever they say no matter what," Hollands said. "I'm not going to assume any role or even where I might start, because the past has proven that it could change at any moment."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Philadelphia Phillies, Mario Hollands