Holt Reflects on First Full Season

Holt learned valuable lessons in Binghamton

Right-hander Brad Holt took big steps in his second season, making more than half of his starts in Double-A. Yet that move still came with many challenges for one of the organization's top pitching prospects. Injury, illness and ineffectiveness all plagued Holt while with the B-Mets, but he looks back at his season aware of the necessary steps he made and the growth to come.

Coming into 2009, to say the spotlight was on Brad Holt could be an understatement. The right-hander had just run through the New York-Penn League, dominating the opposition with his explosive fastball and leaving observers and fans alike wondering how quickly he could contribute in New York. But first, there was still plenty of development and learning to occur.

Holt predictably jumped to St. Lucie to open the season, but was roughed up in his first start when he surrendered three home runs. In response, he immediately went to work with pitching coach Phil Regan to made corrections. Regan worked with Holt on his delivery, specifically his landing which made a large, positive result in the effectiveness of his breaking pitch.

"Coach Regan breaks it down real simple. He's been around the game long enough and he helped a bunch of people in St. Lucie. He made it real basic," said Holt. "He focused on me little things like timing and focusing on the catcher and that really worked."

"To get my breaking ball sharper, he had me stop landing on my heel and start landing on my toes and that allowed me to pull off the front of the breaking ball better and that it made it a much sharper pitch," he continued.

With that adjustment, Holt got rolling and he sprinted through the Florida State League to a 4-1 record, 3.12 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings. He was promoted to Binghamton in late May, but ran into his first challenge after suffering ankle injury following a strong Double-A debut in which he allowed two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings.

A slip off the dugout step ended up costing Holt four weeks and when he returned, he was not the same pitcher. He gave up five earned runs in one-third of an inning in his first start back and seven earned runs in his next 8 1/3 innings.

"I got to Double-A and had that one start before I rolled my ankle and ended up missing six or seven starts. Coming back from that was pretty rough. My first start back, I wasn't right. My arm was back in shape but I wasn't ready to go back and pitch and I couldn't throw any strikes," Holt explained.

However, just like in St. Lucie, he rebounded over his next three starts and allowed just five earned runs over the following 19 2/3 innings with a 23/4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But Holt could not keep the momentum and his effectiveness began to slip down the stretch.

His fastball lost some of the life showed earlier in the year and his secondary pitches lacked the sharp movement that generated so many strikeouts in St. Lucie. He was not getting the proper extension which flattened out his pitches and resulted in a string off disappointing outings. (discussed here)

"Once I came back from the break, and being that it was my first full season, I think my arm kind of died on me. My velocity started to drop off a bit and my breaking ball wasn't as sharp," he said.

"That was the first time where I really had to go through what I was doing and learn how to pitch. I sat down with (Binghamton pitching coach) Hector Berrios and we talked about doubling up on pitches and pitching more inside."

"But my arm started going down and the pitch quality started going down. The breaking ball flattened out and I wasn't getting the swings and misses that I was before."

His last few starts were uninspiring as he racked up 15 earned runs over his final 17 innings, bringing him to a 3-6 record and 6.21 ERA in 11 starts with the B-Mets. Much of what Holt experienced is common for a young pitcher making such headway so early into his career, but it did not come without lessons. For Holt, it means even steelier commitment to his game when he returns to the mound in the spring.

"I definitely did struggle at times in Double-A, but it forced me to learn more about pitch selection and pitch patterns," he acknowledged. "I immediately saw the difference between the two levels because the hitters are way more selective and patient. They're just best hitters and I know I have to take my next game to the next level."

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