Vancouver Canadians pitcher Trent Palmer takes to the mound in this edition of C’s Chat.
The righthander from Rochester, Minnesota—who just turned 23 on April 2—was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the third round of the 2020 draft, going 77th overall from Jacksonville University. He received a signing bonus of $847,500, just above the slot value of $805,600. Signed by scout Matt O’Brien, Palmer became a full-time starter with the Dolphins that year and won two Atlantic Sun Conference pitcher of the week awards on back-to-back weeks March 2 and 9. His final start in college was a masterpiece as he spun a complete game three-hitter against Illinois, striking out 13. Palmer won two of three decisions during the COVID-shortened campaign, recording an earned run average of 1.30 with a 41-7 strikeout-walk total in 27-2/3 innings as the Friday starter.
The springboard to Palmer’s successful 2020 season was a strong showing in summer collegiate ball with Wareham in the Cape Cod League where he had a 1.45 ERA in 18.2 innings with a K-BB total of 21-8.. According to Baseball America, he had hit 97 miles per hour on the radar gun at the Cape.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound hurler began his three-year tenure with Jacksonville as a reliever where his 2.86 ERA and 47 strikeouts over 44 frames landed him a spot on the 2018 ASUN All-Freshman Team. The 2019 season saw him log nine starts over 21 appearances, posting a 4.70 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 30 walks over 61-1/3 innings.
The four-year letterwinner at Anoka High School in Minnesota headed to Dunedin to pitch in instructs in 2020 before making his debut with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2021. Palmer pitched three no-hit innings in his first professional appearance against Bradenton June 2. He had a 7.15 ERA at the end of that month but he would whittle it down to 4.07 at the end of July. His first win came August 4 in Fort Myers when he gave up just one run on two hits while striking out seven over five innings. He would outmuscle the Mighty Mussels August 19 when he pitched a seven-inning no-hitter, punching out 10 men that day in Dunedin. Palmer would throw one more seven-inning no-hitter against Clearwater in his final start of the year September 15. He finished the year with four wins and two loss, compiling an ERA of 3.00 and a K-BB mark of 83-42 in 63 innings.
C’s Plus Baseball was able to talk to Palmer at the Canadians Media Day earlier this month and says he’s looking forward to performing on the mound at Nat Bailey Stadium.
“Yeah, it’s pretty exciting. Everyone in the org kind of talked about being in Vancouver and how great the atmosphere is and just the city as a whole, so it’s pretty exciting. I heard it’s electric, sold out, the fans are like they’re in it just like our team. I hope to give them a good show. I think it should be a good time. I’m just ready to get back out and compete in like a full game setting, it would be nice.”
Palmer was pleased with how his offseason went.
“I had a good offseason, worked on a couple of things that I had struggles with last year so hopefully it goes as planned. The biggest thing was just getting back in the zone more consistently and being able to use a four-seam. I’m a pretty heavy sinker guy, so having the four-seam will benefit me against lefties, so hopefully it works as it has been in spring training.”
There was one pitch of his four-pitch arsenal that drew extra focus from Palmer.
“It’s going to be a four-seam, a sinker, a slider, and then a changeup, I’d say I probably used the changeup the most, just have a lot of like feel for it. (It’s) a pretty good pitch so I just kind of try and ride it when I’m struggling a little bit.”
Palmer credits the improvement of his change-of-pace offering and his development as a pitcher to his pitching coach in Dunedin.
“I think me and Drew Hayes. Right after I was drafted, we kinda found it out of nowhere. We were just playing catch randomly one day and it kind of just stuck.
He was a huge help. He not only helped me like understand how to pitch more but he’s just like the one guy that was always there. Like no matter how good or bad the outing was, he was always going to find a way to kind of get to me and figure out how to make me a better pitcher week-to-week.”
The Blue Jays start-of-the-art minor league complex in Dunedin has also proven beneficial to Palmer
“It’s next level for sure, I mean, every piece of technology that you can get as a pitcher, it’s in that building. It’s nice to be able to see if anything’s a little off. Maybe how you’re landing, whatever it may be, it’ll pick it up instantly. I think the biggest thing is just getting pitches more consistent and not only feeling it, you can see it every day because there’s cameras on you at all times. Every bullpen, every time you throw in a game, there’s all these cameras. All these people logging what you’re doing. ”
After a tough start, Palmer was glad to finish up the season strong in Dunedin thanks to his two seven-inning no-hitters.
“I think it made it better just because at the beginning of the season, I was off to a slow start and just seeing like all the work that you put in throughout the season with the pitching coaches and the catchers. It’s pretty nice to have, like the kind of reward of putting in the time and putting in the work to get kind of dialed in and it paid off so It was a blast.”
Palmer and his fellow Dunedin pitchers had to deal with an automated ball-strike system at home plate instead of the umpire making the calls. It was not something that Palmer relished.
“I think at the beginning of the year, the strike zone was kind of shrunk width-wise, but it gave you more vertically. It didn’t really help me much because I pitch more of the horizontal way. But I think the second half of the year, once it went back to more of like your traditional high school zone and college zone where you got a little bit off the edges but they weren’t going to give you up and down as much. I think the hitters and pitchers both like that a little bit more, but it was definitely an interesting transition to throw to a zone. I mean, it was nice because it was consistent, but it also had its flaws. Like you throw a couple pitches in the zone, it would be a ball and then you throw a ball three-four balls off and somehow, it would give you strike. It’s just inconsistent, but I think it’s fine. I’m not a huge fan of it.”
Palmer says there is one key lesson he learned during his first year as a pro.
“It’s just kind of get ahead and stay ahead (in the count). But I mean in pro ball, you finally realize how important it is because there’s really no gap in the lineup. It’s one through nine can hurt you. if it’s not with home runs, they’re going to hit a single and steal second and steal third. So I think it’s just getting ahead, staying ahead and putting guys away when you can.”
One thing Palmer prides himself on is his demeanour on the mound.
“”I’d say I’m pretty calm. I mean, in big situations, I get worked up like a big punchout or something. The energy will kind of come out, but otherwise I try and stay as even keel as I can.”
Now into his second year as a pro, Palmer admits it was surreal to be drafted.
“It was a very exciting feeling. I think the biggest thing was it never really sunk in until I finally got to spring training the following year because we didn’t get to play that that year and never got to experience that season. So I think it took a little bit longer to finally set in, but once it did, it made it that much better.”
Though Palmer was not sure about if he was on the Blue Jays radar leading up to the 2020 draft, he’s glad to be a member of Canada’s Team.
“I think at the time I didn’t really think that but now, like I look back on it and the calls I had, It kind of makes sense. But at the time, it was a pretty hectic situation. You had COVID going on. You had a little bit of everything, so calls and everything just kind of hit you pretty quick, but I think looking back I’m like I could see how like it was coming, but I’m blessed to be with the Blue Jays. I mean I’ve heard stuff about other orgs and we just don’t have those problems here.”
Pitching at Jacksonville University for three seasons helped Palmer develop as a pitcher.
“I think the biggest thing was every year we had we had an arm that was very advanced. So every year you could learn from it. The guys that were there prior, you learn from them. I mean, we have big league bats that when they’d face you and live hitters, they’d give you the information right away and what they’re seeing and ways that it could be better, so it was pretty beneficial to me and just being able to throw outside everyday coming from Minnesota, it’s nice to be able to go outside and just be able to play catch instead of in a Dome.”
Pitching in the cooler weather in Vancouver is something Palmer is not worried about.
“I’m actually more excited to throw in this type of weather than I am in the steaming hot. Just coming from Minnesota, you have this colder weather for your first, I don’t know, five-to-10 starts. I think getting back into it, it’s kind of takes you back a little bit to where you grew up and playing, but I’m excited to be in Vancouver.”
Palmer’s goals for 2022 are to improve and enjoy the season.
“I think the biggest thing is just get ahead, stay ahead, pound the strike zone, try and keep as many guys off base. The biggest thing is just have fun. We’ve got a fun team here so I don’t think there will be any problems with having fun. Everybody’s got a lot of energy so so it should be a good year.”
Thanks a million to Trent Palmer for the latest C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @palmer2413 and on Instagram @trentpalmer15. Thanks also to C’s play-by-play Tyler Zickel for setting up the chat.