Scranton, Pa. — It’s been nearly a month since Jonathan Holder was optioned from the New York Yankees. He had been struggling mightily, pitching to a 5.55 ERA in 30 appearances — a far cry from the 3.14 ERA he posted in 60 games last year (his best big league season). He had already allowed more runs through 35.2 innings (8) in 2019 than he did in 66 innings (4) the previous year.
The breaking point came in appearance No. 31.
Entering with a seven-run lead against the Blue Jays on June 24, Holder did not record an out and surrendered five runs (including a grand slam). Although the Yankees ended up winning the contest, it signaled the end of Holder’s major league season — at least for now.
“Especially when you have options, you understand how it goes,” Holder said. “If you don’t pitch well, they’ll get somebody that does pitch well.”
After the game, Holder said the problem was commanding his fastball and has made it a point to improve since pitching for the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Manager Jay Bell expressed that he was going to use Holder as a regular reliever upon the right-hander’s arrival. So far, Bell is pleased with the results.
“It felt good to put up a couple of zeros and save the game.”
Holder has made seven appearances with the RailRiders, posting a 3.48 ERA. He’s worked more than one inning in four of those appearances. After allowing runs in each of his first three outings, Holder has settled in nicely to allow just one run in his past four. His latest appearance was by far the best — 2.1 shutout innings with no hits allowed and two strikeouts against the Columbus Clippers — one of the International League’s top offensive units.
“I think he’s progressively gotten better,” Bell said. “I think the work that he and Tommy (Phelps) have put in has really paid off. I’m anticipating him continuing those kinds of quality outings.”
Earlier in that same series with the Clippers, Holder picked up his first save of the season with Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Despite allowing a solo home run, he protected a three-run lead to give the RailRiders a 6-4 victory.
At that time, Bell considered that one of Holder’s best outings, as Holder registered two of the three outs he recorded via strikeout.
Holder said he wasn’t necessarily working on anything new, even though the more relaxing environment of PNC Field compared to Yankee Stadium could allow him to do so. He’s still working on commanding his fastball because that’s when he is at his best.
“I’m not really trying to work on much. Just command my fastball and get outs,” Hoder said.
The progressions are slow and steady, as Holder looks to regain the form of his 2018 self. He’s started that by throwing well in his first month with the RailRiders.
“I felt like it’s been good. I’ve progressively gotten better. I’m just trying to stay on track,” Holder said.
The work has paid off for the 26-year-old reliever as today the Yankees recalled him from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.