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Joshua Palacios Making the Most of Big League Opportunity

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Pittsburgh Pirates' Joshua Palacios rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Pirates’ outfielder Joshua Palacios began the 2023 season a relative afterthought.  After spending parts of the past two seasons in the Major Leagues, Pittsburgh selected Palacios in the minor league portion of the 2022 Rule 5 Draft.

Even with that big league experience under his belt, Palacios began the season with Double-A Altoona. Palacios said he focused on improving himself every day, regardless of what level of baseball he played in at the time.

“I just tried to soak up as much information as I could from the system here,” Palacios said. “I went in there [Altoona], my thought process was, ‘Hey, how can I get better every single day, regardless of where I’m at?’ Then eventually I’ll be good enough to help a major league club and help a major league club every single day. That’s been my goal.”

Palacios made a case for his place in Pittsburgh early on, making his Pirates’ debut on May 9. While it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the 28-year-old outfielder—he’s slashing .224/.269/.405 in 76 games for Pittsburgh this season—Palacios said he tried to keep the pressure of playing for his job out of his mind.

“I’ve been through this a little bit. I try to not think about those things, I try to put it out of my mind. I felt like there was no major leagues; Double-A was my major leagues,” Palacios said. “Just go out there every day and try to get better. Those things, you can’t really control what happens with the front office and callups and all that. But you control how you play every day, you control your attitude, and you can control getting better.”

Hitting His Stride

Palacios has started to find his power stroke in recent weeks, hitting six home runs across his last 30 games. One of those long balls came in the Pirates’ win Tuesday night, where he went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer. Palacios described how he’s improved this season: he said swing adjustments helped him tap into that power, as he’s lifting the ball more now.

“I’ve always hit the ball really hard, but I hit it on the ground. They [the Pirates’ coaching staff] were helping me with getting the ball in the air the right way, trying to lift the ball,” Palacios said. “Since I’ve been doing that, I’ve been hitting the ball the way I was before. It’s just going in the air and getting out of the park.”

Palacios also notched a critical outfield assist Tuesday to help reliever Carmen Mlodzinski end the seventh inning with a zero.

“Throwing a guy out at the plate, saving a run for my boy right there, that was pretty fun,” Palacios said. “Defensively, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better compared to when I first came here.”

Glue Guy

Despite his improved play, with Joshua Palacios the dialogue keeps circling back to his personality. Even when asked a question on catcher Endy Rodríguez’s energy, Pirates’ starter Bailey Falter couldn’t help but mention Palacios.

“It’s Endy and Palacios, for sure. Those guys bring the energy every single day,” Falter said. “So it’s nice having those guys around, especially for a 162 game season. It makes it a little bit better.”

Pirates’ manager Derek Shelton described the energy Joshua Palacios brings to the team and how his mentality helped him earn playing time.

“He’s continued to get better. This is a guy who has a lot of enthusiasm. He controls himself very well,” Shelton said. “We talked at the beginning of the year if guys perform, even if they’re not on the roster then they’re going to have an opportunity to get at bats. He’s done it and deserving.”

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