Steve Palazzolo is a garden variety 6’10" reliever. Every organization has a few of them just laying around, right? The 26-year-old pitched for the Nashua Pride of the independent CanAm League last year, posting a 2.14 ERA and striking out 63 hitters in 54.2 innings. He was introduced to the internet baseball world in a fascinating article by former Baseball Think Factory and Hardball Times author (and current Diamondbacks scout) Carlos Gomez.
The Giants signed Palazzolo over the winter, and he has had a fantastic start in AA (18.2 IP, 7 hits allowed, 17 strikeouts, and a 0.96 ERA). Gomez was able to get me in touch with Palazzolo, who was gracious enough to answer some questions for the site. His size, dedication to his craft, and sense of humor should make him a fan favorite when he makes it up to a big-league bullpen.
McCovey Chronicles: What is the biggest adjustment you've had to make coming from the CanAm League to the Eastern League?
Steve Palazzolo: I'd say the biggest adjustment for me is that the hitters are a bit more patient, and they have more of a plan at the plate. You don't see as many guys chasing at bad balls out of the strike zone. At the lower levels, it's easier to exploit hitters who expand their strike zone a bit, especially with guys in scoring position. Also, I'd say the strike zone gets a little tighter as you move up. On a good note, the food is better and the towels are plush.
Were you expecting to go to AA, or were you thinking you would start at a lower or higher level?
I was hoping to be in AA to start the year, but I wasn't sure if it would happen -- I was working with the high-A group through most of spring training. I moved to the Connecticut group with about two weeks left in camp. I started growing my mustache about halfway through spring training, and I think turned some heads and reminded the Giants that I was probably too old for High A, thus the move.
You've had a fantastic start to your Giants career. The only blemish thus far has been some spotty control. Is that something you've struggled with in the past, or is this out of the ordinary for you?
I wouldn't exactly call myself a control specialist, but my current walk totals are definitely out of the ordinary. While my results have been pretty good so far, I know I have to attack the zone more and get some quicker outs. Some of my innings haven't been pretty, but it's a long season, and everyone always has to make adjustments.
According to the Baseball Think Factory article from 2007, your fastball was usually somewhere in the low- to mid-90s. Is that about what you're throwing in Norwich?
I'll usually pitch anywhere from 88-94, but most of my fastballs will be in the 89-91 range. I think my height really helps it to play a little harder though.
What makes Dodd Stadium one of the most extreme pitcher's parks in professional baseball? How does it affect your pitching?
I had obviously heard rumors about how Dodd was really tough on hitters, but so far it's actually worse than I thought (hopefully that doesn't come back to bite me). I've just seen some balls get crushed, and they're barely making it to the warning track. Line drives also just seem to hang up in the air long enough to get caught--it's an interesting dynamic. Granted, I've only seen a handful of April games and I'm assuming the ball will carry a little more into the summer months, but for now it's tough to get the ball out of there.
On the other hand, one weekend in Binghampton showed the other side of the spectrum, as the ball was just flying all over the place. As far as affecting the way we pitch, hopefully it doesn't change much because the mistakes you get away with at home are going a long way on the road, so we all try to pitch the same no matter where we are.
How did you get hooked up with internet baseball folks like Will Carroll (of Baseball Prospectus) and Carlos Gomez?
After my first pro season in 2004, I realized that I really had to dedicate myself to getting better in every aspect of the game. I was really focused on being better mechanically, but I also dedicated to learning everything I could about training for baseball as well as nutrition. I did a lot of researching on my own, and that's where I ran into Will and Carlos. I've always read Baseball Prospectus and I just took it upon myself to send some videos of my pitching to Will to check out. I was actually shocked at how much time he put in to help me, and we became instant friends. He was instrumental in my getting signed by the Brewers in 2006.
I eventually did the same thing with Carlos--just asked his opinion on my mechanics, and he was more than willing to help. We started to talk a lot about pitching, and it eventually evolved into an article. Seems like there are a lot of people trying to pick up where he left off in mechanical analysis now that he’s scouting, but he’s got a great baseball mind and we still talk quite a bit.
Do you pattern your mechanics after anyone in particular? I'd guess there aren't too many 6'10" pitchers out there to emulate....
I wouldn't say I emulate anyone in particular, but I've studied so many different types of pitchers that I think you can take a little bit from everyone, even a little guy like Lincecum. I've definitely studied the tall guys like Randy Johnson, Chris Young, and Jon Rauch, but everyone is just so different, and I've just focused on developing and tweaking my own style through the years.
Would you prefer to continue relieving, or do you have a desire to start at some point?
I definitely think relieving is my future. I moved to the bullpen in 2005, and it just fits my style better. I use mostly my fastball and splitter with a few sliders mixed in, and that combination works well in short relief stints. I also feel like I've been able to bounce back pretty well coming out of the pen. Either way though, if someone out there that makes the decisions thinks that I should start, then that's what I'll do. My ultimate dream growing up was to be a switch hitting big league shortstop, and if anyone wants to give me that opportunity, I'm down with that too.
Adam Cowart fascinates me, and I can't wait to watch him pitch someday. How is he getting guys out? Who else on the Defenders staff should we look out for?
Cowart is definitely impressive to watch--such a unique style. He's getting guys out by pounding the zone with a low 80's sidearm fastball with really nice sink, and he mixes in a slider and change up. The key to his success is how many strikes he throws, and guys are just pounding the ball into the ground so far this year.
As far as other guys to watch out for, I'd say we have a pretty strong bullpen. Romo is throwing really well; he knows what he's doing and has really good command of his breaking ball. Matos and Pichardo are a couple of 40 man guys with good stuff. Lefthander Jason Waddell has a really good slider and has a shot to dominate some lefties. In the rotation, Joey Martinez is throwing the ball well. And I haven't seen much of him yet, but I've heard good things of Paul Oseguera.
Thanks upon thanks to Steve Palazzolo for taking the time to answer these questions.