When told that fans probably didn’t know who he was, Mario Hollands shared a quick laugh.
He understood why.
The 25-year-old kid from California came into Phillies spring training with just a lick of Triple A experience and long-shot odds to make the big-league club.
“I just wanted to leave a good and lasting impression,” the lefty reliever said Saturday at Citizens Bank Park, “and I think I did that.”
And now he’s no longer an unknown.
Hollands took just about everyone by surprise — even himself — by pitching his way onto the Phils’ 25-man roster, which was announced Saturday (see story).
“I was honestly in shock,” Hollands said about getting word he made the team. “I think I still am a little bit. It was great, I can’t really put it into words.”
His family and friends got the news before he even had a chance to break it.
“Everyone found out already, at least back in California,” Hollands said. “I called my parents but word spread pretty fast. All my friends in California already knew. I didn’t have to tell them.”
Sandberg referred to the southpaw as an “unsung hero.”
“Hollands did a heck of a job,” the manager said. “He really showed quality stuff. Fastball 93 to 94 [mph], he pitched strikes and really adapted to everything going on in spring training with Bob McClure (pitching coach) and myself and the pitchers as far as holding runners, fielding, throwing strikes out of the bullpen.”
Hollands was selected by the Phillies out of UC Santa Barbara in the 10th round of the 2010 draft. He was primarily used as a starter in the minor leagues, but will now happily serve the Phils in the bullpen.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. lauded Hollands for his maturation during winter ball in Venezuela, which not only made him a better pitcher, but also prepared the left-hander for an environment such as Philadelphia.
“He pitched pretty consistently there (Venezuela) and that’s a high level of competition and a high level of stress there as well,” Amaro said. “So you start throwing in those situations and have success in those areas, that’s important. Pitching here in Philadelphia, one of the most difficult things is not to get to the big leagues, but to stay.”
The 6-foot-5, three-quarter arm-slot hurler allowed just four runs in 11 2/3 innings this spring (3.09 ERA), including 10 strikeouts and an opponents’ batting average of .244.
“He’s a little funky with his delivery which creates some ground balls,” Sandberg said. “But he’s a guy that fits in real nice in the bullpen as a left-handed guy.”
But don’t think lefty specialist just yet.
“For me, [he was] equally effective in the spring with right-handed hitters and left-handed hitters,” Sandberg said. “He’s also a guy I can go two –or-three-inning possibilities with him.”
Hollands welcomes anything.
“Whenever they need, really,” he said. “I don’t mind doing whatever role. I feel I can get lefties and righties out, doesn’t matter what side of the plate they’re on. I have confidence getting both out.
“I played for Ryno before a couple years ago (2012, Triple A Lehigh Valley) and I knew I had gotten a lot better since then.”
He’s back with Sandberg again — this time on the big stage.