It’s a well-worn story: journeyman pitcher toils away for years in the minors, gets a cup of coffee in the bigs here and there, but never quite establishes himself as a major leaguer. As the bouncing around from organization to organization and small town to small town continues, he begins to think maybe it’s time to call it a day, give up the dream.
Such was the case with the Angels Matt Palmer; a 30-year-old would-be landscaper who was thrust into the team’s starting rotation due to injuries to John Lackey and Ervin Santana. With the urging and support of his wife, Palmer continued to chase the dream, and instead of putting his horticulture degree to use, he’s putting his years of experience pitching in cities like Fresno and Norwich to use. Through four starts, Palmer is 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA. While there’s no telling if he’s going to continue pitching this well, and some sort of regression should probably be expected, his numbers to date are no fluke. He’s allowed only 16 hits in his 26.2 innings pitched and he’s held opposing batters to a miniscule .168 batting average. For all you fantasy players out there, Palmer’s WHIP currently stands at .97 – ridiculous to say the least.
Palmer attributes much of his recent success to Salt Lake Bees pitching coach Erik Bennett and Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher, but all you have to do is watch him pitch and it’s easy to see how he’s getting major league batters out. Palmer moves the ball effectively to both sides of the plate with a cutter and sinker, both around 85-88 mph, and occasionally mixes in a tight little slider. He’s generally around the plate, which was not the case when he made three starts with the Giants last season and walked 13 batters in just 12.2 innings. Whatever adjustments he’s made from then to now, they’ve obviously paid off.
With rotation mainstays John Lackey and Ervin Santana returning (Santana started yesterday, Lackey goes Saturday), there is still one spot open and it appears that Angels manager Mike Scioscia would be hard-pressed finding a reason not to send Palmer out there every fifth day. For now, the journeyman is doing yeoman’s work and helping the team win games and stay afloat in the AL West.