High School Sports

Gulfport’s Jonathan Holder set to open season with New York Yankees

New York Yankees’ Jonathan Holder pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies in a spring training game March 22 in Clearwater, Fla. The former Gulfport Admiral will break camp with the Yankees, the club announced Thursday.
New York Yankees’ Jonathan Holder pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies in a spring training game March 22 in Clearwater, Fla. The former Gulfport Admiral will break camp with the Yankees, the club announced Thursday. AP File

It doesn’t appear Jonathan Holder will have to return his iconic pinstripes anytime soon.

The Yankees announced their Opening Day roster prior to Thursday’s spring training game and according to multiple reports the former Gulfport standout and Mississippi State Bulldog has secured one of the team’s final bullpen spots.

Entering Thursday’s final spring training game in Florida for the Bronx Bombers, Holder had made a strong case to stick with New York.

Although Holder surrendered four runs in 1  2/3 innings in his second spring training appearance Feb. 28, he settled down and did not surrender another run the rest of camp. Prior to Thursday’s game, Holder boasted a 3.00 ERA with nine strikeouts and a paltry 0.58 WHIP in 12 innings. He had also surrendered seven hits without issuing a walk.

Holder made his MLB debut Sept. 2 in Baltimore, pitching a perfect sixth inning in relief. The highlight of the moment may have been striking out all-star outfielder Adam Jones on a 94 MPH fastball. Jones jokingly tried to swipe the ball from the catcher before ultimately returning to Baltimore’s dugout.

“I was nervous in the bullpen warming up,” Holder said in January while working out at Gulfport. “And then when I stepped out of the gate to run in, it was just like any other game I’d ever run in. I guess when I went in they said congratulations over the intercom, and it kind of sunk in. And then it was back to baseball.”

Holder recalled being in the zone when he took the mound.

“I was in my own place,” he said.

Holder ultimately appeared in eight games with the Yankees last year, posting a 5.40 ERA in eight games. He also struck out five while limiting batters to a .258 batting average. During the offseason, Holder also got married, another milestone to punctuate a year he won’t soon forget.

“The most adrenaline and things happening at once,” he said. “Making it to the big leagues is something that everybody dreams of. They say that’s the best day of your life. And then you get married and you’re like, ‘I don’t know which one was better?’ Of course it was getting married — put that in the paper.

“Emotionally, it was a roller coaster.”

Holder’s No. 23 jersey was retired this spring at Gulfport.

The Yankees will play at the Atlanta Braves’ new SunTrust Park on Friday before opening up the season with a three-game series at Tampa Bay on April 2. Following three more games at Baltimore, the Yankees will make their home debut April 10 against Tampa Bay.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

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