John Holdzkom's road back to Major League Baseball runs through Auckland.

The former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher will suit up for the Auckland Tuatara in the team's inaugural season in the Australian Baseball League, joining a host of former and future MLB talent.

The Herald can confirm Holdzkom will don a Tuatara jersey from near the midway point of the season, but will be with the team in the early rounds.

"He'll start up in week four or five," Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn said.


"We're just figuring out how to get him into New Zealand earlier and set him up comfortably in Auckland so he can get in his work to be ready for this level of competition, as it's been a couple of years for him."

The 210cm 30-year-old, who qualifies as a Kiwi through his New Zealand-born father, pitched for the Pirates in 2014 and impressed in a short amount of time.

In nine regular season relief appearances, 'Big John' struck out 14 batters and allowed just four hits as he earned a 1-0 record, posted a save, made an appearance in the post-season and gained the status of a folk-hero among Pirates fans.

However, he hasn't pitched again in the majors since 2014, as shoulder injuries set his career off track. After his time with the Pirates ended in 2016, the Chicago White Sox signed him to a minor league deal and gave him a chance to rehabilitate his shoulder.

It didn't come right.

John Holdzkom pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014. Photo / Getty Images
John Holdzkom pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014. Photo / Getty Images

Now, after taking some time away from the sport to get his body in order, Holdzkom will look to find his feet on the mound in a Tuatara jersey as he works his way back to the show.

"He's been a big leaguer, and he knows what it takes to get there to where he needs to be, and I'm trusting him as I always have," Flynn said.

Speaking to, Holdzkom said he was excited to get back to New Zealand and see if he could "pull one more rabbit out of my hat."

"It was definitely frustrating, because I finally felt like I figured it out, then I got hurt," Holdzkom said.

"I feel like I've got to give it one more shot."

Holdzkom, who has pitched for New Zealand at the international level, will be the third former MLB pitcher on the roster alongside Josh Collmenter and D.J. Carrasco with the team.

While the roster will fill out in the weeks before the team are set to gather in Auckland in early November, Flynn said he had confirmed the signings of several players from the Chiba Lotte Marines – a club in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league – for the first part of the season.