Gulfport/MSU alum Jonathan Holder ready for new spring training

From the Big Apple to the Windy City, Jonathan Holder will have already pitched for two of the biggest brands in Major League Baseball before his 28th birthday.

The former New York Yankee signed with the Chicago Cubs back in December and is now less than 48 hours away from his first dose of spring training in Mesa, Arizona as opposed to Tampa, Florida.

“Usually in Tampa I bring my fishing pole and fish while I’m down there, but Arizona has nice golf courses so I’ll bring my golf clubs.” Par 3, 4, or 5, Jonathan Holder’s ERA typically lower than his golf score and the former Gulfport Admiral and Mississippi State Bulldog wouldn’t have it any other way ahead of a hole-in-one opportunity with the Chicago Cubs. “We’re excited to get a new change of scene. The Yankees were first class and they’ve been great to me and we’re sad to leave New York, but getting to go out to Arizona for spring and go up to Chicago and play for the Cubs, a lot of people could only dream of playing for those two teams, so I’m very blessed and I’m excited to get out there and get to work.”

Holder’s first impression on the 2016 World Series champions will be made Wednesday during the first workout for pitchers and catchers.

He says his arm is feeling good as ever after throwing just 21-and-two-thirds innings during a COVID-shortened 2020 season and has since been focused on fastball command and fastball velocity. “Just a little mental change. I do have to understand that these people haven’t seen me pitch as much as the Yankees, so I do have some stuff to prove. I’ve got to prove what I can do on the mound, that I can do it in Chicago, too.”

During his five years in pinstripes, Holder sported a 4.38 ERA with 165 strikeouts in 176 innings and some change.

Last year, the hard-throwing righty finished with another plus 4 ERA, but was on the verge of a breakout, posting a mark of 2.08 through the first 15 of his 18 relief appearances.

As for the season ahead, he’ll be working with a four-pitch mix, fastball, cutter, change-up and the re-introduction of his favorite grip from Starkville. “I’m bringing back my curveball that I brought back towards the end of last year and I had some success with it, and it’s the pitch that kind of made me who I was in college and going into the Major Leagues and I’m excited to pitch with it again.”

Despite spending the first seven years of his professional career with the same organization, Holder says he’ll be feeling right at home in no time once he’s surrounded by outfield ivy and a cool breeze off Lake Michigan. “Two of the best games I ever remember playing were in Wrigley. In 2017, I got my first win there, so I’ll remember that forever. Brett Gardner hit a two-run homer to get me the win in the ninth, and then the night after that, we played an 18-inning ball game and had to pitch three innings in that and did really well and the team ended up winning, so those were two of the most memorable games that I’ve had in the big leagues.”

Holder says the Cubs player he’s most excited to meet this season is the closer Craig Kimbrel.

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