Jim Palmer talks about Orioles' rebuild, their pitching, and his health - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Jim Palmer talks about Orioles’ rebuild, their pitching, and his health

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Jim Palmer celebrated his 74th birthday last Tuesday. The Hall of Fame pitcher, who’s been a longtime Orioles broadcaster, spoke last Friday from his home in Southern California about the current state of the Orioles, and his health. Palmer missed the last few weeks of the season after he was diagnosed with myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, which he disclosed on Twitter.

This interview has been condensed for clarity and brevity.

Question: Based on the first year of the new Orioles regime, do you think, despite the record, the season was a success?

Answer: “It’s a difficult question in a sense because you have to understand the whole timing. [General manager] Mike Elias comes on, right before Thanksgiving. That would be the 16th of November. You’ve got to hire a manager. You’ve got to hire coaches. You don’t have your people in. It’s very hard to hire people.

“Right after he got the job, he called me, and said it’s very hard to find coaches. A lot of people have already been signed on. It’s a totally new environment. I’m not sure how much other than relying on [former minor league director] Brian Graham, how much you know about your minor league players.

“It’s not like someone told Mike Elias last June, so even though while you work for the Astros, spend the next three or four months getting ready to take over in November.

“There were obviously certain guys that were revelations. Hanser Alberto comes to the top. In a perfect world, you say that, OK, this guy is a perfect platoon player, maybe a National League player. He can play all over. He hit a couple of points under .400 against lefties. He doesn’t steal a lot of bases, but he can run a little bit. He’s young [27], so if you look at the young position players, you say, ‘OK, this kid can play a little bit.’

“What if the ball is not the same as it was? It’s a tough year to judge your team. If you look at the Orioles, they won seven more games than they won in 2018. They scored more runs than they did in 2018. Now, is that the ball? I don’t know.”

“You found out that [manager] Brandon Hyde could get these guys to play with great energy. They play hard, even though they may be outmanned. It’s easy to throw in the towel. I don’t think the Orioles ever really did that.

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“I think it’s hard to quantify whether the year is a success. Everything was kind of done on the fly.”

Q: Two pitchers that are intriguing to many people are John Means and Hunter Harvey. What are your thoughts on them?

A: “John Means, what an opportunity. He took advantage of it. He’s the poster boy for what you want from the Zac Lowthers, the Keegan Akins, and down the road, DL Hall.

“He gets an opportunity because of injuries kind of like I did in 1966 when everybody got hurt. I ended up winning 15 games instead of going to Triple-A. Any time you’re on a team that wins 54 games, and you win more than you lose and have you an ERA in a year where the ball’s flying out of the ballpark a little over 3.50, you had a heck of a year.

“Hunter Harvey, you saw why he was the No. 1 draft choice. Exceptional stuff. In a perfect world, you’d like to have a guy like that start. With all the injuries and backing him off at the end, maybe the bullpen will be the best place for him.”

“To have a guy like Hunter Harvey, with that kind of stuff, he’ll learn. When you come to the big leagues for the first time, and you’ve struggled as long as he did with injuries, it’s hard to really throttle down a little bit.”

Q: I know you don’t see the minor leagues, but you just mentioned several pitchers. From what you know, do you think the Orioles have enough pitching prospects to be credible in the next couple of years?

A: “Some scouts send me their reports, from A ball all the way to Triple-A, and the guy that really stands out is Grayson Rodriguez. Most of the guys that I talk to think that he has a chance to be a No. 1 or a No. 2. I know they talk about, ‘Hey, this guy can be a No. 1 starter.’ They never talked in those terms because we had [Mike] Cuellar, [Dave] McNally and myself. We had three No. 1 guys, and they were all interchangeable.

“I was reading a couple of days ago about Keegan Akin, talking about how he walked five guys per nine innings. At least he didn’t walk 130 in 129 innings like I did in A-ball, and the next year, you’re in the big leagues.

“For a lot of the young guys, you’re going to get on the 40-man roster, which means you’re going to be in spring training, and all of a sudden, the spotlight is on you to some degree, and you get an opportunity. John Means, he just paved the road for all of these guys.”

Q: What can you tell us about your health and how you’re doing?

A: “I got shingles, and it ended up invading my spinal cord, which is called myelitis. The whole left side of my spinal cord was infected. It’s the varicella virus. It was having a party in my spinal cord. I was losing weight.

“I still feel postherpetic neuralgia, where it hurts as much today as the day I got them. The scars are kind of gone. It really gets into your nervous system.

“A couple of days before Labor Day, I took a thoracic MRI. Five days in the hospital, brain scans, back scans. I was losing weight because I was not eating.

“It was kind of a distraction to watch the games. I was losing weight. I lost 10, 12 pounds, and I never lose 10, 12 pounds. I had a leg biopsy on my birthday. We’re just trying to find out if there’s anything else but the myelitis. I got as low as 194, 195 pounds. I’m back to 202, lifting weights, working out. I feel fine. I never felt bad.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. J Guy

    October 21, 2019 at 7:36 am

    Great interview,he is a wealth of information
    I love to listen to him

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 21, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      Thank you, J Guy.

  2. Orial

    October 21, 2019 at 8:11 am

    Excellent interview of an iconic Oriole. Palmer was never a brief one word answer kinda guy(borderline rambler) but a “must” listen. Sounds like he’s still a widely respected individual in the baseball world considering Elias and scouts calling him. That description of his illness couldn’t have been any more thorough if a Dr had given it. Nice writeup Rich.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 21, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      Thank you, Orial.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 21, 2019 at 8:25 am

    Despite my moniker here at BB.com … this man has always been my absolute sports hero. 3 time in my teens, I had occasion to get Mr. Palmer’s autograph before games during warm ups. Each time I asked him a question regarding the team, and each time he took what seemed an eternity to give me a thoughtful and unhurried answer. I’ve never had an encounter with Brooks Robinson, and I repeatedly hear how gracious he is with the fans. I have a hard time imagining how he could top Jim Palmer in that department. Hopefully we’ll get many more years listening to this man do games. And for gosh sake, get him back on the LLWS broadcasts!

    • Jim-Considine

      October 21, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      In 1982, I went to Boston with some friends to catch a weekend series at Fenway. Following the Saturday after game, we ran into Cal Senior at the hotel bar. Fans flying to Boston was kind of unique in 1982, so he struck up s conversation and kept bought us several beers.
      I was dumbstruck by his marvelous elocution. He gave us a seminar in baseball. I wish I could replay that conversation today.

  4. Fareastern89

    October 21, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Great read on a Monday morning, Rich. Palmer is by far my favorite announcer, always providing insights and entertaining anecdotes, and his credibility is unimpeachable. Best wishes to him as he works through his health issues. By the way, those who think DL Hall’s recent control problems have dimmed his prospect status should bear Palmer’s brief minor-league numbers in mind.

    • Phil770

      October 21, 2019 at 9:36 am

      Palmer walked nine batters in his only no hitter. Gotta go get my shingles shot right away!

      • Rich Dubroff

        October 21, 2019 at 10:32 am

        He walked six batters, Phil.

        • Phil770

          October 21, 2019 at 1:11 pm

          Thanks for the correction, Rich. I was recalling a story that Palmer shared on a broadcast; either I heard wrong or he exaggerated to make his point in the story. Either way, glad I was wrong.

          I was surprised to learn that in ’68, he was placed on waivers, and later exposed to the expansion draft to K.C. and Seattle. Another lesson in patience and persistence that needs to be part of the Birds thinking.

          Hope he continues to recover and he will be back on O’s broadcast next season. His candor and insight are refreshing and outstanding.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 21, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      Thank you, Fareastern.

  5. Birdman

    October 21, 2019 at 10:23 am

    As a very young fan, I met Jim Palmer in 1965, when he was a 19 year old rookie. ( We lived in the same apartment development in Baltimore.) I wish him well in his recovery. And, as noted, this is a reminder to folks over 50 to get the shingles vaccine.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 21, 2019 at 10:33 am

      I’m going to get one, too, Birdman.

  6. whiterose

    October 21, 2019 at 11:09 am

    For those planning on getting shingles shot, make sure you get the new two part Shingrix. Much more effective than old one part.

  7. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    October 21, 2019 at 11:54 am

    Palmer was a great pitcher and seemed to put aside personal goals to win games. He fully utilized gold glove defense behind him- like Brooks, Belanger, and Blair. He didn’t obsess with getting high strike out totals. His talent and baseball pitching knowledge was a key to winning 20 games 8 times. Excellent interview.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 21, 2019 at 12:39 pm

      Thank you, Grand Strand.

  8. ZantiGM

    October 21, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    One of my heroes growing up and the best pitcher O’s have ever had
    When he quits announcing it will be a very, very sad day

    • Camden Brooks

      October 21, 2019 at 5:45 pm

      Agree 100%. The stories and knowledge he shares during broadcasts are amazing.

  9. NormOs

    October 21, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    I’ve followed his career since he joined the O’s. I’m older then Jim and what I envy him the most is his memory, particular games even particular pitches and dates. His memory is truly amazing. I wish him well in his recovery. I would like to see some of these young guys get a chance to pitch since, as you infer and I agree, there is no pitching after Means and Harvey and maybe Bundy even though he has never lived up to the hype. Other than those three there was no pitching. If the O’s could do without Rule 5 and the waiver wire they may be better off.

  10. PA Bird Lover

    October 21, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    Great work, Rich. Jimbo is a wealth of knowledge, especially how to pitch a baseball. He was our greatest pitcher and as far as I’m concerned, our best color announcer in the TV booth.
    If you listen to him you can’t help but to learn pitching. Over the years I’ve often wished he’d be our pitching coach. Wishing for a fast recovery for our greatest hurler.

  11. WorldlyView

    October 21, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    The world would be a better place if there were more people as gracious and multi-talented as Mr. Palmer. We wish him a full and speedy recovery.
    Rich, thanks for this. I hope you will interview him again. His memory and insights are extraordinary. Do you think he has been more valuable to the Orioles being outside and looking in, or would the team have been better off if he had had a management position?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 21, 2019 at 3:30 pm

      I think he’s enjoyed his freedom over the years, and he’s freely shared his advice, Professor Cohen with players, fans and management alike, and we’ve been the better for it.

  12. OriolesNumber1Fan

    October 21, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    I hope the great HOF’er Jim Palmer gets well soon. Love his commentary during games and his steel trap of memories he shares with fans. Current Oriole pitchers should spend more time and pick his brain on how he pitched. He won’t be around the team forever and they could certainly learn a lot from him.

  13. Puyerunner

    October 21, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    Shingles is mean stuff. Jim, take care of yourself! Want you back on, but that is a distant 2nd to having you better. Sending up some more prayers! Been rooting for you since 66 8 Os since 55!

  14. AZ ORIOLES Fan

    October 22, 2019 at 9:56 am

    Excellent article Rich, unlike some of the old Birds Jim is always analytical in his comments. Respect his opinion

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