Sunday January 15, 2012
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: When I first spoke with Steve Palazzolo, I was blown away by his stature. How could you not be…the man stands 6’10″ and throws baseballs for a living! The first images that went through my mind were Jon Rauch and Randy Johnson. Comparisons that I am sure Steve has heard his whole life. But once you get past the sheer size of the man, you find a person with an even bigger heart. A gentle giant, Steve is very well spoken and intelligent to converse with. With the shortage of quality arms in today’s major league bullpens, one would expect that available arms would be snapped up in a second. But that is not always the case, especially for Steve Palazzolo. He pitched five seasons in the minor leagues, between the Brewers, Giants and Mariners organizations. He made it all the way up to AAA before returning to Indy ball the past season and a half. Steve will be 30 by opening day and continues to battle his way to achieve his dream: making the big leagues. As we discussed in yesterday’s interview with Luis Lopez, Jerome Williams made his way from Indy ball to the Angels rotation last year. Dreams do come true. Steve Palazzolo has shown that he has the talent. Taking a look at his numbers from last year, Palazzolo pitched 53 games for the Blue Crabs- finishing with a 9-5 record, 3.06 ERA and 1.200 WHIP. He only surrendered 4 home runs while striking out 57 batters. Watching him on video and considering his talents and strong character, I would be snapping this guy up pretty quickly if I was a baseball General Manager. To succeed in baseball, you need to have talent and a chance. Steve Palazzolo has the talent. Now he is just waiting for his opportunity.
Today on MLB reports, we are proud to present pitcher Steve Palazzolo- or as we refer to him: The Pitching Tower of Pisa
MLB reports: First question: Steve. Palazzolo is an interesting last name. Meaning and origins?
Steve Palazzolo: It comes from the Italian word Palazzo, which means palace. There is also a village in Sicily named Palazzolo. I’d definitely love to visit some day.
MLB reports: Everyone reading your profile would see: 6’10″, 29-years-old and a right-handed reliever. On paper you should be in a major league bullpen. What is your current active status?
Steve Palazzolo: Current active status is “trying to join a major league bullpen.” Really, though, I’ve spent the last year and a half in the Atlantic League with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, just continuing to learn and get better. It’s definitely a never-ending process in baseball, and I’ve spent the last couple years adding different pitches and arm angles, while also learning different ways to attack hitters.
I’m also looking at a possible opportunity to play in Japan, so we’ll see how it all plays out.
MLB reports: We last saw you playing for AAA Tacoma in 2010. Since then you have been playing Indy ball. What led you back to playing Indy? What are the differences between Indy and playing in the minor leagues?
Steve Palazzolo: I was sent back to Indy ball in what I viewed as a three-way trade. Back in July 2010, it went something like this:
Rangers Get: Cliff Lee, Mark Lowe
Mariners Get: Blake Beaven, Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke, Matt Lawson
Blue Crabs Get: Steve Palazzolo
OK, so the Cliff Lee deal brought in a few minor league pitchers and I got the axe.
I’d say the main difference in Indy ball is the organizational structure. There is no class level, so you’re not really worried about moving up or being sent down. Just go out and do your job and do it for the team. I’d say my Indy teams have been the most closely knit teams I’ve ever been on. It’s usually the same core of guys for the entire year, and everyone wants to get back to affiliated ball, but there is a definite emphasis on winning as a team. Not to say that affiliated teams can’t be close, but there is a lot more player movement that tends to disrupt team chemistry throughout the year.
MLB reports: You have played in the Brewers, Giants and Mariners systems. Tell us about the best teams that you pitched for in your professional career.
Steve Palazzolo: As far as talent goes, the 2009 Fresno Grizzlies are near the top. Our overall record doesn’t show it, but with about three weeks to go in the season, we had the second best record in the Pacific Coast League but we were 14 games out of first place behind Sacramento.
Bullpen wise, the 2008 Connecticut Defenders was probably the most talented I’ve been a part of. We had a number of pitchers who went on to have some big league success, most notably Sergio Romo who was closing for us.
If we’re talking clubhouse unity, I mentioned the Indy teams, but the 2010 Tacoma bullpen will always hold a special place for me. Even though I was only there a short period of time, we had an outstanding group of guys who genuinely cared for each other and did a great job of staying entertained for the first five innings of every game (always an important in the bullpen).
MLB reports: What are your goals going into the 2012 season?
Steve Palazzolo: First to marry the love of my life, and best friend, Kelley Donoghue (she is looking over my shoulder as I type). Simple answer is to pitch to the best of my ability, regardless of where I’m playing.
MLB reports: You were signed as a free agent by the Brewers as your first organization in 2006. Tell us about the process in joining Milwaukee.
Steve Palazzolo: Pretty fun story actually. I had just finished my second professional season with the Worcester Tornadoes and was sitting at my computer on a Thursday in late January when I received an email from my good friend, Will Carroll. He forwarded me an email from a Brewers scout that referenced an invitation-only tryout at their spring training complex that Saturday. Will mentioned how it was unfortunate that I was not in Arizona. I emailed him back with the title, “Last Minute Trip to Arizona?” Will sent the request back to the Brewers scout who agreed that if I could get to Arizona, I would be welcome to try out. I immediately booked a flight for Friday and made the workout on Saturday. At the workout, they suggested I mix in a couple different arm angles (which I’d experimented with before) and as it turns out, I was one of only two guys signed that day.
MLB reports: Given your size, most people would think that you would be a power pitcher. How would you describe yourself as a pitcher and tell us about what you throw.
Steve Palazzolo: I wouldn’t say power pitcher, but I do think my height gives me a big advantage and helps all of my stuff to play a little better. I throw a 4 seam fastball, slider, splitter and I just added a new changeup. My change is interesting as I started to experiment with it toward the end of last year, and I may have found a really good grip that I will stick with for good, possibly even replacing the splitter. As I mentioned, I’ve also experimented with a number of different arm angles, so I’m always mixing it up.
MLB reports: Every baseball player works towards making the big leagues. What do you need to do in order to achieve that dream?
Steve Palazzolo: At this point in my career, or anyone’s career for that matter, the phrase you hear is “right place, right time.” Pitchers mature and figure things out at various times in their careers so that’s why I’m constantly looking to improve. I think I just need another shot to play in Double or Triple A, then it’s all about pitching well. Pitch well, and if it matches up with a situation where the big league team needs a pitcher, then it can happen. I know this: I’m confident in my abilities to pitch successfully in the big leagues, it’s simply a matter of continuing to improve while also getting an opportunity.
MLB reports: If you weren’t playing baseball today- what would you be doing?
Steve Palazzolo: I’d probably be a pitching coach, and that’s what I do all offseason. On my long road through the minors, I used myself as my own science (pitching) experiment. It’s been a constant process of trial and error, and I’ve learned so much along the way. So my plan is to coach, while also developing my own business as a pitching coach. I have a couple of blog posts up at www.stevepalazzolopitching.wordpress.com, but I have to get better putting up more consistent material.
I’m also an analyst and writer for www.profootballfocus.com. Just started this year, and it’s been a lot of fun breaking down the NFL.
MLB reports: Looking back at your career to-date, would you have done anything different?
Steve Palazzolo: I do remember a hanging slider I threw in 2008 that went for a home run. I should have thrown a fastball.
Really though, I made the decision early in my career to put everything I had into it, and I’ve been very blessed along the way. No major regrets.
MLB reports: When you think of your expectations going into professional baseball, what are some of the biggest surprises you have encountered?
Steve Palazzolo: This is a tough question. Making me think here. As a kid, expectations are always glamorous. Everyone wants to be like their TV heroes, but when I entered pro ball, I already knew that it was a difficult grind. Not sure I can think of any major surprises, but I will mention the one thing I appreciate and that’s the uniqueness of everyone in the game. Players coming from all walks of life, all over the world, unified by the game of baseball. It’s really amazing to think of the people I’ve met along the way.
MLB reports: Choice of cleats and glove- what brands do you use?
Steve Palazzolo: Nike cleats and Spalding glove. If and when I hit, always Franklin batting gloves.
MLB reports: Given your height, how do you find clothes shopping?
Steve Palazzolo: It’s difficult. There are a few stores that carry big sizes, but I have to do a lot of my shopping online. The Big and Tall store is better for wide rather than tall, so a lot of the stuff is just way too big.
MLB reports: Which past or present MLB players would you most compare yourself to? Are either Randy Johnson or Jon Rauch a close comparison?
Steve Palazzolo: Kenny Powers. Actually, he stole my look. I’ve been rocking the mustache and long hair since ’06.
I really try to take something from everyone, whether it’s Randy Johnson or Tim Lincecum. As far as comparisons, Johnson isn’t great because he was such a hard thrower. Rauch is an OK comparison, but he has a higher arm slot than me.
The one pitcher I’ve seen who compares favorably is Kameron Loe from the Brewers. We’re not identical, but our natural arm slot is similar. He’s 6’8” tall and also likes to mix up arm angles so I can relate to his style a bit.
MLB reports: We discussed the potential of you heading to Japan. What are your thoughts on heading to the far east?
Steve Palazzolo: It would be a great opportunity. The competition is great and I’ve seen a lot of pitchers who have gone there and then come back to the states as better pitchers. It’s a different style in Japan, and I think the hitters force each pitcher to use his entire repertoire. Even though the culture change would be difficult, I’m hoping I get the chance to play there.
MLB reports: Last question: to a young pitcher in school just starting out, what advice would you give them?
Steve Palazzolo: Work hard, work smart. I don’t think the grammar is correct on that statement, but I think it gets the point across. Anyway, pitching is a lot more than throwing a ball to a target (or is it?). Preparation is extremely important, and when I work with young pitchers, I like to break it down into four main areas: mechanics, strength and conditioning, nutrition, and mental approach. Oh and it’s important to have fun while doing it. The best players love the preparation.
***Thank you to Steve Palazzolo for taking the time out of his offseason training to speak with us today on MLB reports! You can follow Luis on Twitter (@Palo50). Steve loves interacting with his fans, so please feel free to send him any questions/comments you have. Or just wish him good luck on the season, as he would appreciate your support!***
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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