Holliday maintains confidence while fighting through early slump

KANSAS CITY – Jackson Holliday stopped by his locker yesterday before the visiting clubhouse closed to the media. He isn’t hiding. He completed a fielding drill in front of the dugout and laughed with teammates at the railing. He isn’t sulking or broken.

Holliday is a 20-year-old rookie in the majors who isn’t immune to bumps and slumps. He didn’t think that he’d have one hit in his first 27 at-bats and strike out 15 times, but he’s handling it like a professional. The work comes before any worrying.

He isn’t showing any signs that the moment is too big for him and it’s ruining his confidence. Put away those concerns.

“I’m going through a little bit of some adjustments right now,” Jackson said. “Obviously, not the start I was hoping for, but the past few games I feel like there’s some good things. Like, I’ve hit the ball in the middle of the field pretty well and then a lot of off-speed pitches to the middle of the field, which I’m happy with. I had a few lineouts against Minnesota.

“Overall, the past few games I’ve had some positives. Obviously, no hits but some good at-bats, some walks, some good swings. So I’m kind of looking at it that way and building off those and looking back to what I was doing in spring training and trying to get back to a few little things.”

Holliday had three walks and 15 strikeouts in spring training, but the quality of his at-bats improved by leaps and bounds after his initial struggles. He avoided bad counts or worked them full. He’s done it a few times this season but is 0-for-11 with 10 strikeouts after being down 0-2.

“I think that has a lot to do with it,” he said. “It happened in Triple-A, too. The higher that I’ve gone on, it’s taken me a little bit longer to adjust than I’d like, but eventually I get to a point where I’m comfortable and success starts to happen.

“Just trust in it and taking it day-by-day and trying to get better in the cage, and it’s felt more comfortable. I only got two at-bats (Friday), but I felt comfortable, I swung at the right pitches and just missed. It happens. Baseball is hard. But yeah, getting more comfortable.”

Manager Brandon Hyde had a brief chat with Holliday after Friday night’s game, making sure that he didn’t need to prop up the young infielder. Perhaps checking for any signs of cracking. Maybe just confirming what he already knew about Holliday’s maturity.

Basically, nothing to see here, but it doesn’t hurt to look.

“You’re talking about somebody who’s never failed before," Hyde said. "It’s a tough place to. I don’t think anybody, except for the people that are down here in uni, understands how hard this is. To be 20-years-old and be one year in the minor leagues and to be here says a lot about him, how talented he is. It's a very short window and he's going to go through struggles, and that's part of being a professional baseball player. How you deal with it, adversity, tough at-bats. I think he’s handling it really, really well.

“I wanted to make sure his mindset was good last night. It is. He’s just got to keep grinding. There’s nothing else to do except keep pushing and try to relax, try to have fun. It’s impossible when you’re struggling to have fun, but try to play free and easy as best you possibly can, and hopefully you get a couple soft singles to fall.

“That’s what I was saying last night. You just need like a jam shot over the shortstop’s head a little bit, to see the ball for a while. Just a little anxious right now.”

Holliday appreciated the interaction, but again, he’s doing fine.

“Yeah,” he said. “I mean, I’ve gone through this before in the minor leagues. Not to start a season or to start a big league career, but it did happen in High-A. You fail a lot in baseball. It’s happened to every single person in this locker room. It’s just a different timing for me. It just happens to be right at the beginning. Better to get it out of the way at the beginning, huh?”

This is a good spot to pause and remind everyone again that this is a 20-year-old, No. 1 overall prospect and son of a seven-time All-Star whose every move is news. Every success and certainly every failure. And he remains so relaxed and pleasant in conversations. Exactly the way he sounded and acted in camp and after his promotion.

Matt Holliday is in Kansas City and can offer his own advice, along with his love and support. He can assist in breaking down Jackson’s at-bats and the glitches in mechanics - how he loads, why he’s drifting back and not syncing right away.

“We talked about the swing a little bit last night, and trying to find little things, because I don’t think I’m far off,” Jackson said. “I feel good, the swing looks good. Just a few little things.

“Trying to work those out right now and looking forward to getting back out there.”

As confident as ever.

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