May 14, 2009

Matt Palmer: Halo Hero

With all of the injuries to the pitching staff to open the season, plus the untimely and unfortunate death of Nick Adenhart, the starting pitching of the Angels appeared to be the dimmest of spots for the team. Anthony Ortega has been pretty bad, Dustin Moseley has pitched like, well Dustin Moseley and Shane Loux hasn't been awful, but not terribly impressive either. On the other hand Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver have both stepped up huge and pitched wonderfully.

The biggest surprise of all has been Matt Palmer. 4 games started, 4 wins.
First start of the season? 7 innings against Detroit, surrendering 4 runs, but picking up the W.
2nd start at new Yankee Stadium against C.C. Sabathia? No problem. 1 ER, and the W.
3rd start against the 1st place Royals? Psssh, 1 ER and another W.
Then came the 4th start Wednesday night against the Red Sox. As a diehard fan I was starting to get excited about this guy and you have to love his story. 30 years old, on his way out of baseball, clears waivers from the Giants, heads to Venezuela for winter ball and suddenly he's in the Angels rotation. If you haven't read about Matt, do so now, I'll wait.

Are we good? Ok, you gotta love that right? "I was in the bullpen before the game in New York," Palmer said, "just moving around, looking around. I told myself, `You know, I love baseball.' It just came to me, and I felt good, calm."

So there he was Wednesday night facing the Sox after another bullpen implosion the previous night. 1st inning? Bad. 2 run home run to J. Bay. 2nd inning? Bad. 2 more runs. The familiar feeling of "Well, it was fun while it lasted" started to creep in. But then, Mike Scioscia showed why he's a managerial genius. After the second, he walked over to Palmer and said, "No more". Apparently that's all Matt needed to hear. The 30 year old rookie has learned to listen during his struggles in the minors because he heeded Scioscia's instructions and went on to let in no more. In fact, he retired the final 19 Red Sox hitters. Complete game Halo victory.

Obviously I want Matt to go on and dominate all season. I want him to flourish and become a front line starter, but if he falls apart after tonight, I'll still always remember Matt Palmer fondly. 2009 has already been a very memorable season for Angel fans, but most of those memories are not of the positive variety. This however will always be one of the highlights of the season.

Every time a new player is suspended for steroids or a new scandal arises people question why we love baseball. Why do we follow this sport so closely? Basically, why do we care? Well, I care because of Matt Palmer. I care because it's fun rooting guys like Matt. In this past week alone I've felt the excitement of a great pitching duel between Greinke and Saunders, felt the elation of Torii Hunter going a couple of feet over the wall to bring back a game tying home run in the 9th and felt the pure goodness of watching Matt Palmer throw his first career complete game against the Sox.

Damn, I love baseball. Thanks for being a part of that Matt.

Go Halos!

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