Palazzolo pitched for Division II UMass - Lowell in college, but after appearing in two D-II College World Series, he went undrafted and went to the Frontier League in 2004 and then joined the CanAm League in 2005.
Impressed by what they saw from the big man, the Milwaukee Brewers signed him out of an audition camp and brought him in for 2006. At 24 years old, he made his debut in affiliated ball and struggled in Low-A before moving down to short-season ball and overmatching younger hitters.
However, he was a late cut from camp in 2007 and wound up returning to the CanAm League for another season. He was impressive enough with the Nashua Pride that the Giants signed him and brought him out to Scottsdale for instructs.
Having tinkered with mechanics frequently over the years, Palozzolo, now 26 years old, found a comfort zone and pitched well enough to earn a spot in the Connecticut bullpen to open the 2008 season.
Now, four years after graduation and with just 41.2 innings of MiLB service time, he's making the organization take notice. While he has been wild because of an inconsistent release point, nobody has hit him well through the first month of the season. Working with a heavy fastball that sits in the low 90s and can reach 94 and a workable splitter, Palozzolo has given up just one run on four hits in 13 innings while striking out 10. We caught up with the Massachusetts native to talk about his approach and the challenge of coming into the organization as he did.
Q: To come in to the organization new and earn a spot in Double-A is a feat for a guy who never worked above Low-A. Did you feel like you had to really stand out to get a look ahead of the guys who are products of the draft and the Giants' system?
Steve Palozzolo: I've had to kind of work from behind since the get-go. Luckily, I got signed by the Brewers originally out of the CanAm League, and after that didn't work out, luckily got the chance again. I feel like I've worked real hard to get to this point and I'm just trying to get better every year. I feel like I've been able to do that. I've always got to prove myself, but that's part of the game; everybody's got to prove themselves. I feel like I'm in the same boat as anybody else. You've just got to perform.Q: The standard book on guys your size is that it takes longer to make all the mechanics come together. Do you feel like you're close to being there?
Palazzolo: Obviously, my stats aren't showing that at all. The walk totals aren't where I want them to be at all. I've worked hard on my mechanics, and I feel like with my size, I still have a long way to go. It's about repeating – I'm still trying to find a little better consistency there. It's something I work hard on a lot.
Q: You don't come nearly as over the top as most guys your size. Do you think that you lose some of the advantage of your height by being a little lower with your arm slot?
Palazzolo: It's the way I've always thrown. It's very difficult to change arm slots. The Brewers had me throwing sidearm at times, and that didn't really work out all that well. I still think despite my low arm slot, when I throw the ball right it's still got pretty good downhill and usually got pretty good movement on it. I think I use my height more getting on top of the hitter rather than – or in addition to – creating a little bit of a downhill plane.
Q: Your fastball has a lot of action on it. Do you work mostly with the two-seamer?
Palazzolo: Actually, I'm throwing mostly four-seamers, but when I throw them right, they seem to move a little bit and they have a little bit of life. When I keep the ball down with the angle and everything, I usually get some movement. My two-seamer doesn't even move any more than my four right now. That's something I'm working on with (pitching coach) Bob Stanley, trying to get a little more sink out of that.
Q: As a new guy in the organization, did the instruction staff have many changes for you this spring?
Palazzolo: There weren't really too many tweaks. At this point, I'm pretty close to what I'm going to be. Dick Tidrow made a few suggestions, Bert Bradley gave a few suggestions. I tried to take a little bit from everybody and mold it to what I do best.
Q: Has Bradley been through for his first trip already this season?
Palazzolo: Yeah, he was here during the last homestand with Lee Smith.
Q: It's got to be nice to have access to a guy like Smith.
Palazzolo: Lee's fantastic. He's talking the whole game and everybody in the dugout's listening. BP, whatever it is, he's always telling a story. I tried to follow him around a little bit, learn a lot of good stuff. He's great to have around. He's a scary individual (physically). His hands are huge. He's showing us his split grips and even I can't do what he's doing.
Q: What are you most focused on in your development program this year?
Palazzolo: Being consistent down in the zone. Things can get out of whack easily for a 6'10" guy, so I really work hard every time I'm even long tossing. I'm kind of a perfectionist with that; I really want every single throw to be good, every pitch to be down with good hand speed and good life on the ball. I've been a guy who's worked on mechanics a lot in the past and done a lot of tweaking. I'm at a point now where I'm just trying to keep it real simple and just worry about finishing every single pitch, every single throw that I make. That's a very simple goal, but I think it can go a long way.