Daily Archives: January 15, 2012

Steve Palazzolo Interview: The Pitching Tower of Pisa

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)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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Ask the Reports: Your Baseball Questions Answered – Sunday January 15th, 2012

Sunday January 15th, 2012

Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@gmail.com, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Q:  Any news on moves for Derrek Lee & Casey Kotchman? With Yanks recent pitching acquisitions, does Boston pursue Roy Oswalt more aggressively?  Rick

MLB reports:  Great questions Rick.  No and no are the answers.  Sorry!  To answer your first question: Lee and Kotchman are plans “c” and “d”, if that, for contending teams.  Teams on the rise would prefer to use younger players at first base. So the market for both is limited at best.  Both Lee and Kotchman will need to fight to get full-time jobs.  Kotchman will find something based on his solid 2011 campaign.  Perhaps a return to the Rays is in order.  Lee on the other hand, is getting on in years.  I could see him retiring at this point, or in a year from now.  It just depends on how desperate some teams are to get a veteran presence on their team and if trust is there for either player.  With regards to Oswalt, I see him signing very soon.  Boston could use him, yes, but I am not sensing a fit.  The top teams for his services appear to be the Rangers and Jays.  At 1-year and $8 million, he will likely have 20+ teams pursuing him.  Boston does need Roy Oswalt in the worst way at this point. He would help stabilize a rotation that needs his presence. But this decision will come down to geography and fit for the player.

 

Q:  Is Jesus MonteroVictor Martinez good?  How far is J.P. Arencibia or Travis d’Arnaud from Montero?  Derek

MLB reports:  The Montero questions begin!  I made the comparison on the trade of the trade that Montero was comparable to V-Mart and I stand behind that one.  Carlos Santana is another good comparison.  Extremely strong bat, will hit for high average with good pop.  Glove is questionable.  Montero will be good, I am just on the fence on whether it will happen in Seattle.  The  hope is that with a young team, he will blossom into a superstar. It will depend on whether he feels any pressure to live up to replacing Michael Pineda and ends up putting too much pressure on himself. He seems like a confident young man, so he should do well.  The V-Mart threshold is a high one to reach.  But we are definitely talking in the same category.  Now d’Arnaud and Arencibia are a different story.  Being based in Toronto, I get asked on these guys often. Here is my take put simply.  Arencibia is a good guy, with good power in his bat.  He is popular in the clubhouse and seen as a developing defensive catcher. His liabilities are his low average, high strikeouts and inability to take a walk.  A .219 AVG and .282 OBP don’t cut it in my book.  If JP doesn’t develop, he will become the Rob Deer of catchers.  Travis d’Arnaud, on the other hand, may not have JP’s power (debatable), but he will definitely hit for a much higher average.  He also will need to learn to take walks and cut down on strikeouts, but he should be more consistent offensively than Arencibia.  Defensively, I have heard mixed things- but both will stick at catcher.  So defensively, both Arencibia and d’Arnaud are above Montero.  But Montero’s bat is far superior to either of the other guys.  He is major league ready now to hit, while JP and Travis are still learning to hit consistently.  If I had to rate each, I would give Montero an 8/10, d’Arnaud a 6/10 and Arencibia a 5/10.  Montero is far ahead, with only d’Arnaud having the best chance to close the gap.

 

 Q:  Do the Phillies really expect Ryan Howard to be fully “baseball ready” before June 1st?  Old Man Mack

MLB reports:  LOL.  That is the hope sir.  If I had to be a fly on the wall, I bet the Phillies are hoping that he will be ready before that.  But if the Kendrys Morales injury has taught us anything, is that you never know how some of these freak accidents will heal.  My crystal ball sees Howard back after the All-Star break.  Unless he is 110% healed, why risk it?  His long-term health and productivity are at risk.  I would not be shocked if Howard took longer to heal and had to miss all of 2012.  But chances are that he will be back, just not till sometime in July or August of 2012. If he is back sooner, he better be ready…or a setback could be around the corner.  I would say the bigger question is how long he stays in the lineup, rather than when he is back.

 

Q:  What are the Tigers chances on Yoenis Cespedes?  Michael

MLB reports:  The Cespedes rumors are flying fast and furious. The teams that have been most linked to him are the Marlins and the Tigers.  There have been stories of 5 teams, 10, 20…all sorts of numbers thrown around about this guy.  Now, people are questioning why he is playing winter ball and in fact hurting his stock.  My gut feel is that there isn’t as high of a demand for him as people suspect and that teams are cautious at throwing big money at an unknown quantity. But even if he doesn’t put up the best numbers this offseason, it has to be considered that he is rusty and been away from the game for some time. People should not expect Babe Ruth immediately, just to view his tools and to see if the mechanics are there. I like the Marlins chances best at signing Cespedes.  Team Latino gets a 50% chance of landing Cespedes, with the Tigers at roughly 20%.  

 

Q:  Does Vance Worley come back to earth in his sophomore season?  Justin

MLB reports:  Nah man, Vance never left!  Just kidding, but I know what you mean. Vance Worley was unbelievable in 2011, with an 11-3 record, 3.01 ERA and 1.230 WHIP.  His won/loss record will depend largely on his offensive support and bullpen, so that we will leave to fate somewhat. I see Vance throwing quality strikes and keeping his walks low. He will not be an ace, but he will be very steady. He has the minor league track record and has already proven himself at the highest stage (in one of the most pressure filled environments, Philadelphia).  Expect some regression, but not too much. Vance Worley is the real deal. A sophomore jinx should be avoided, but he will still take time to develop.  Remember he is only 24-years of age.  By year 3 or 4, expect a stud 20 game winner to emerge. 

 

Q:  With the new players eligible for the 2013 Hall of Fame class (Bonds, Clemens, Sosa etc.): will any be inducted?  Ken

MLB reports:  Ken. Ken. Ken. Mr. I say that Tim Raines MUST be inducted. 🙂 He is back for more… Just playing with you Ken, you know we love ya.  48.7% of the vote Ken, I guess the voters aren’t all sold…yet.  Here is my knock on Raines- get ready.  Played 23 seasons. Not a bad thing in its own right. But definitely inflated some of his numbers. 980 RBIs.  So he averaged less than 50 a year. 1571 runs scored. For 23 years played, not fantastic. A hall of fame leadoff man should easily be scoring 100+ per year, even on poor teams. Raines only did it 6 times. .294 AVG and .385 OBP.  Very good. Like those numbers. The man did not hit many doubles or triples. He was basically a singles and stolen base machine.  Now go check out our man Vince Coleman. Both in their primes, they were one of the top stolen base threats. Raines got more hits and got caught less stealing. But then Coleman appears to have attempted more stolen bases. Raines played longer and ultimately had the stronger career. But in the prime years, I can’t say that Raines was that much more spectacular than Coleman. Raines is very good and will get into the hall of fame the Jim Rice route. But it is not the Hall of Very Good. It is the Hall of Fame. 

Now with your true question: Will any of the new eligible players be inducted into Cooperstown in 2013?  The candidates are Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Sosa, Schilling, Biggio and Lofton.  I can tell you right now, based on Palmeiro and McGwire’s poor standings, that there is no chance in heck that Bonds, Clemens or Sosa are getting in.  No way.  No how.  The ones I see getting in are Biggio and Piazza. Secretly, I have fantasized at night about Biggio and Bagwell getting in together. It was just meant to be. If Bagwell does not get in next year, then he will have to wait for some time. I feel next year will be his year. Piazza has to get in as a 1st ballot hall of famer. The numbers he put up as a catcher demand it. Next year is the year that hall of fame voters get their true test. If Piazza is out, then the hall of fame will really have to sit down and work out a better set of criteria for voting. The writers are going to feel like they are on a raft without paddles…it is time to fix the voting mess once and for all. Are these guys hall of famers or not? Let’s lay down the law and be done with it.  No more fence-sitting. 2013 will be a big year for sure.

 

Q:   Over/under 13.5 psychotic episodes in Miami?  Sam

MLB reports:  Under.  Way under!  I think you will see maybe 5-6 big blow ups. Carlos Zambrano will get into 1-2 confrontations. Hanley will explode about the position change once.  LoMo will have one twitter incident.  Ozzie will have a couple of issues likely develop. Apparently the Miami Marlins are being considered for the baseball reality show this year. If that happens, watch out. That will be Grade A television!!!

 

Final Q:  Will the Brewers be able to win the central despite losing Prince and no Braun for first 50 games?  Eric

MLB reports: My brain says no and my heart says maybe. The reality is that the Brewers are in tough. Very tough. The loss of Prince will be huge (when it happens) and same with Braun if the suspension is upheld. But even with those guys, the Brewers would still be in tough. The Cardinals, even with the loss of the Pujols and La Russa and absence of Duncan would still be a strong team.  The Reds though are the team to beat, as they are frontrunners to take the NL Central this year. The Brewers still have Greinke and Gallardo, so they have a chance. But I just see the Reds as the class of the division this year. The Cardinals are going to regress and will have a tough time defending their title. But without their main offensive stars, the Brewers go from stars to ordinary. The window appears to be closing on the Brewers… and opening for the Reds in 2012.

 

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Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

Jason Heyward: What Happened to the Braves Slugger in 2011?

 

Sunday January 15, 2012

Sam Evans: 2011 was a surprisingly rough year for Braves outfielder Jason Heyward. The former number one prospect struggled making solid contact and he ended up missing thirty-four games in the year. In order for the Braves to compete in 2012, they will need a healthy Heyward to get back to the level he was at in 2010.

Simply put, Jason Heyward was a monster during the ’10 campaign. During that preseason, there had been so much hype made about the consensus number one prospect in baseball. From hitting a 471 foot homer in his first at-bat, to finishing with 5.1 WAR, Heyward was everything Braves fans could have hoped for… and more.

Heading into the 2011 season, the Braves were expecting an improvmeent from Heyward in his second full season. Heyward didn’t end up having a great year. When he was hurt, he couldn’t help his team. But even when he was healthy, he still struggled.

Heyward hit .192 against lefties in 104 plate appearances. The “J-Hey Kid” missed parts of the season due to issues with his right shoulder and in particular, his sore rotator cuff. Heyward finished with a .227 BA and only fourteen home runs. He could have another mediocre season in 2012, but the feeling is that Heyward will likely bounce back.

Recently, Braves GM Frank Wren was quoted as saying that Heyward will not be guaranteed a starting job in 2012. This is just crazy talk in my opinion. Despite how bad his 2011 season turned out, Heyward was a superstar up until then. Jason Heyward is still only 22 and has room to improve. But he needs major league playing time. Wren could have been just keeping his options open or trying to motivate his young player in some way.  In reality though, it was not a very smart quote coming from a usually intelligent General Manager.

2012 will be a career defining year for Jason Heyward. He could continue along his 2011 path, and lead us all to wonder what happened to the clutch, young prospect we all once fell in love with. Or in the alternative, Heyward could return to his old self and lead the Braves back to the playoffs. Above all, we have to remember Heyward is only 22-years old. He is so far ahead of most players his age. So he has plenty of time to reach his full potential.

**Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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