Texas Rangers: Takeaways from Joe Palumbo’s anticipated major league debut

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ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 14: A general view of play between the Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 14, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 14: A general view of play between the Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 14, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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Left-handed pitcher and #7 prospect Joe Palumbo gave the Texas Rangers solid work in his big league debut this afternoon. There were many great takeaways from his outing.

Left-handed pitcher Joe Palumbo made his big league debut for the Texas Rangers Saturday afternoon against the Oakland Athletics. The #7 prospect threw 66 pitches over four innings, allowing six hits and four earned runs. He got off to a hot start, striking out two of the first three batters he faced, then pitched comfortably through three innings after his offense got him a 5-0 lead.

The fourth inning gave him trouble, however. It was his second time through the Oakland lineup. He gave up a double to Marcus Semien (leadoff hitter), a single to Khris Davis (4th place hitter), a two-run homer to Matt Olson (6th), hit Chad Pinder (7th) with a pitch, then gave up a single to Ramon Laureano (8th) and a double to Josh Phegley (9th). All four of the A’s runs against him were scored in the fourth inning.

One bad inning didn’t spoil what was surely a satisfying watch for the Rangers’ coaching staff and front office, especially with it coming on the front side of a double-header. Palumbo pitched well enough to set his team up for an eventual win; there were many greats signs that shine brightly on his future as well.

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SURPRISE, AZ – FEBRUARY 20: Joe Palumbo #62 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait on photo day at Surprise Stadium on February 20, 2019 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Palumbo showed consistent velocity, hitting 93 mph on the gun throughout, and topping out at 94. He’s known for having a high spin rate (averaging around 2,500 RPMs) on his four-seam fastball, which was on full display Saturday. He got a number of swings and misses from A’s hitters, particularly on fastballs up or above the strike zone. That tells you the ball was getting to them faster than they were expecting.

He didn’t walk anyone, and 43 of his 66 pitches were thrown for strikes. His pitch count was more than economical up until his final inning.

Palumbo’s curveball is perhaps his best pitch. He definitely fooled a few Oakland hitters with it, though it didn’t appear to be at peak command. A curveball over the heart of the plate is what Olson hit the home run on. There were a number of them over the plate and he didn’t really drive any low in the zone to entice opposing hitters to chase. But a little tentativeness is expected given the assumed combination of nerves and adrenaline.

Ultimately, there was a lot to like about the 24-year-old’s big league debut. Another inning or two of domination would’ve been nice to see, but let’s not ask for too much. Palumbo made 10 starts with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders this season. He did not pitch beyond the 6th inning in any of those starts and he averaged 5.5 innings per outing. His workload is certainly something that can be improved upon.

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We’ll see if he remains with the Texas Rangers. The rotation has been quite good of late with Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Adrian Sampson and Ariel Jurado contributing nicely. Drew Smyly is the odd man out. Joe Palumbo earned himself another look, though Texas’ priority is to not give him more than he can handle. If they feel he needs more developmental time in the minors, then that’s where they’ll send him.

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