Vicente Palacios, a few months removed from pitching for the Yucatan Lions and the Aguascaliente Railroadmen in the Mexican League, will make his first start in the major leagues in two seasons tonight for the St. Louis Cardinals at Colorado.
Palacios, 30, helped the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1991 National League East championship team, going 6-3 with three saves and a 3.75 ERA. He underwent shoulder surgery the next season, then was released by the Pirates and the San Diego Padres last spring.
He landed on his feet in his native Mexico. There’s such a shortage of pitchers in the major leagues that it’s far from the last stop anymore. He helped himself by throwing a no-hitter in the winter-league playoffs.
Mike Jorgensen, the Cardinals’ director of player development, missed the no-hitter. But he saw another performance pretty much like it.
“When I saw him down there, he was dominating,” Jorgensen said. “Plus, his statistics were impressive, which indicated he was doing it on a consistent basis.”
Palacios showed enough to be invited to spring training as a non-roster player. It didn’t take Manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Joe Coleman long to determine he would help the Cardinals.
“We felt he could be a backup closer, a middle reliever or a starter if the need came up,” Coleman said. “The big thing was he showed us he was healthy.”
“That’s why I went back to Mexico, to try to get my shoulder back 100% and work hard,” Palacios said. “I’ve put everything together and I’m very happy.”
He began the year as a setup man, became a spot starter when Rick Sutcliffe went on the disabled list because of a hamstring injury April 25, then went to No. 4 starter when Rheal Cormier went on the disabled list because of a bone bruise to his shoulder Thursday.
“He’s climbing the ladder without even playing a game,” Torre said.
Palacios has a 3.65 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. If there is any concern, it is control. He has walked a team-leading 10, most of them in a few early outings.
Minnesota Twin right-hander Scott Erickson isn’t kidding himself about facing the same Milwaukee team he held hitless last Wednesday in tonight’s start.
“As far as I’m concerned, the game the other night is over,” Erickson said. “You can’t get caught up in it. I’ve got 31 starts left. The best time to throw (a no-hitter) would be the last game of the season, so you don’t sit there and think about it.”
Only one player in major league history, Johnny Vander Meer of the 1938 Cincinnati Reds, has pitched back-to-back no-hitters.
Erickson said the idea that he could duplicate Vander Meer’s feat against the Brewers “is a joke.” He hasn’t even won back-to-back decisions since September of 1992.
“It’s not even worth talking about,” Erickson said. “It’s been done before, but it’s dumb to even think about it.”
Michael Jordan was hitless in four at-bats for the double-A Birmingham Barons, lowering his batting average to .250. . . .Infielder Willie Greene, who started nine games for the Cincinnati Reds this season, has been optioned to triple-A Indianapolis. Greene was batting .216. . . . The Chicago Cubs placed outfielder Willie Wilson on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained left quadriceps and recalled Kevin Roberson from triple-A Iowa. Roberson was batting .313 in 19 games at Iowa. . . . Baltimore Oriole shortstop Manny Alexander, on the disabled list since having a growth removed from a leg in spring training, was activated and optioned to triple-A Rochester.