Since retiring only two batters in his April 26 start against Dunedin, Jordan Holloway is in the midst of the best stretch of his professional career. The right-hander credits the work he's done off the mound with Class A Advanced Jupiter pitching coach Reid Cornelius for the turnaround.
The Marlins' No. 13 prospect recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts over five scoreless innings before the Hammerheads dropped a 2-1, 10-inning decision to Florida on Sunday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium. He gave up three hits and a walk while extending his shutout streak to 15 1/3 frames.
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"After that start [last month], we sat back and looked at video and worked our butts off in the side sessions to develop a comfortable and repeatable delivery," Holloway said. "I was throwing too many curveballs in the dirt and I was not consistently in the zone enough. So the days between the starts that no one sees was me and him working really hard to get into a situation where we were more in the zone and consistently ahead of hitters."
Holloway has not given up a run in his last three outings. During his scoreless stretch, he's yielded six hits and seven walks while fanning 29. His 1.50 ERA would rank second in the Florida State League if he had enough innings to qualify.
The 22-year-old finally may be finding his footing after injuries sidetracked him the last few years. A triceps injury cost him about half of the 2016 season and Holloway underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017 after making 11 starts for Class A Short Season Batavia. He returned to the mound last year and made seven appearances between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Batavia, allowing him to build a bit of momentum heading into this season. After a rough FSL debut, Holloway tossed six one-hit innings against Lakeland his next time out on April 13.
"I feel like I'm on a good track right now," he said. "After going through lots of months of rehab, I feel like it's given me the backside of what I need to do on and off the field to stay healthy. So just having the experience of working with really good pitching coaches and coordinators the last few years has put me in the best situation to succeed and stay on the mound. My biggest goal is staying healthy throughout the whole year."
Against the Fire Frogs, the 2014 20th-round Draft pick worked around a pair of errors that allowed leadoff man Riley Delgado to reach second by setting down the next three batters on 10 pitches.
Holloway made it eight straight retired, striking out seven, including the side in the third. With two out in the fourth, he gave up back-to-back base hits to Braves No. 27 prospect Jefrey Ramos and Drew Lugbauer before punching out Kevin Josephina, who was coming off a 5-for-5 performance on Saturday.
"I felt like I had a really good pace. Staying ahead of hitters gave me the opportunity to be able to put them away," he said. "I was able to use all three of my pitches and command them well -- staying consistently in the zone helped a lot."
After starting the fifth with an eight-pitch strikeout of Rusber Estrada and getting Garrison Schwartz to ground out on the next offering, Holloway walked Jordan Rodgers on six pitches and allowed a single to Delgado. The Colorado native ended his outing by fanning Braves No. 23 prospect Izzy Wilson.
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"I'm just trying to get early contact, let the defense work behind me and our catcher [B.J. Lopez] was amazing behind there today," Holloway said. "We were in sync the entire game, so hat's off to him and his approach to the game.
"Honestly, I don't really look at giving up runs. Every time I go out there I'm trying to give my team the best opportunity to win. That's what matters to me."
Delgado gave Florida a walk-off win with a one-out double in the 10th after Schwartz pulled the Fire Frogs even with an RBI double in the seventh.