CLEVELAND -- Strikeouts are the thing for Royals closer Greg Holland.
Prior to Saturday night's game against Cleveland, Holland had piled up 60 strikeouts in just 35 innings and led the Majors with a strikeout ratio of 15.43 per nine innings.
Not that a strikeout is his primary thought as he enters a game.
"It's always easier to come in and throw seven or eight pitches and get a couple fly balls or a couple ground balls, and get a quick inning," Holland said. "But if you get to two strikes and you're in the right count, you're definitely going to take a shot at expanding or elevating a fastball or something like that, because you've got a higher percentage chance of them getting on if they do hit it.
"But the main thing is just try to execute pitches and try to get weak contact. There are situations, though, with guys on or in close-game situations where you're going to take a chance on a strikeout. But normally, if you're coming in a clean inning, you're just trying to get weak contact early in the count so you can be up [and available to pitch] multiple days in a row and don't wear yourself out with a high pitch count."
Holland has a blazing fastball, but that's not necessarily his strikeout pitch. He depends on pregame analysis by pitching coach Dave Eiland, bullpen coach Doug Henry and bullpen catcher Bill Duplissea, who doubles as the advance scouting coordinator.
"A lot of times, you're just reading hitters. We do a lot of scouting reports and Duper and Dave and Doug do a great job of compiling reports," Holland said.
"Salvy [catcher Salvador Perez] always does a good job, too, and he's actually even getting better at reading hitters. Sometimes when you're out there on the mound, it's hard to read a hitter's swing. So if we're in a disagreement, he'll come out and say, 'OK, I can tell he's late [on his swing], let's stay hard,' or, 'Hey, he might try to jump your fastball here, let's go offspeed.' So having him back there, too, helps a lot."
Holland had struck out the side nine times in his 36 appearances up to Saturday, four times facing just three batters. Of his 22 saves, 15 were in succession starting on May 30 at St. Louis. During that span, his ERA was 0.95.
The Royals were hoping that, if an opening appeared on the American League All-Star pitching staff for Tuesday's Midsummer Classic at New York's Citi Field, Holland would be considered as a replacement.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less