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Joshua Palacios Providing Pirates With More Than Just Energy

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Joshua Palacios, Pittsburgh Pirates

It’s not too often that a player selected in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft becomes a fan favorite, but that’s what happened to Joshua Palacios with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. 

Palacios appeared in 91 games with the Pirates last season in two different stints. He hit .239 with a .692 OPS, nine doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and 40 RBIs. Overall, he had an 83 wRC+.

Despite below-average production, Palacios brought several elements to the Pirates that aren’t so easily quantifiable. The native of Brooklyn, N.Y., brought plenty of energy and seemed to shine brightest in the game’s biggest moments. Whether it was a walk-off home run, a clutch hit or a game-winning catch, Palacios had several memorable plays. And with every big play there was always passion.

Palacios was recalled by the Pirates on the Fourth of July, and while he’s the same energetic player he’s always been, he’s providing more than that in his second year with the team.

Through his first seven games, Palacios is slashing .278/.435/.611 with a pair of home runs and five RBIs. He’s walked five times and has yet to strike out in 23 plate appearances. 

“He’s a ton of energy, as you can see, and he just continues to have good swings, and he did it at Triple-A,” manager Derek Shelton said following the Pirates’ 8-2 win over the Mets on Monday. “It was just a matter of time before we could get him healthy enough to get him back up here.” 

Palacios missed most of spring training with a calf injury and an illness that made its way through the Pirates’ headquarters in spring training.

The missed time cost Palacios a real chance at making the Pirates’ roster out of spring. He was instead sent to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he appeared in eight games before again landing on the IL. He started a rehab assignment but was shut down for several weeks. 

Finally, Palacios worked his way back to the field at Indianapolis. Now, he’s back in Pittsburgh and his excitement could be felt from the PNC Press Box, which feels like it’s roughly one mile above the playing surface.

“It’s a blessing,” Palacios said after homering in Sunday’s win over the Mets. “ I just want to thank God, because it was a tough road getting back, getting back up here, just getting myself healthy. But to be able to play baseball everyday and do what I love, it’s a wonderful opportunity and a great feeling to be back doing what I love.”

Palacios rejoined the Pirates with some momentum at the plate after shaking off the rust and getting consistent reps with the injuries behind him. 

That momentum he built in Triple-A has so far translated to the big leagues.

“It’s very important,” Palacios said on returning after performing well in Indianapolis. “The whole time I was just trying to get ready. Shoutout to my guy (Eric Munson), the hitting coach down there, in part just getting me back to where I was at, working through my drills and stuff, just to get my feels back. They pretty much set me up to take off running, so I’ve been happy with that.”

Palacios has provided a spark to a lackluster Pirates’ offense, and he’s been right in the middle of the production.

Since Palacios has been back, the Pirates have scored 40 runs in seven games. On two occasions, the Pirates have scored double-digit runs, and Palacios was the table-setter atop the lineup in each of those games.

Though he’s only been back for a short time, Palacios sees the potential with this club. 

The Pirates are squarely in the Wild Card mix and the 29-year-old feels his team has a chance to get over the hump. 

“We’re not far off from second place right now, trying to get a Wild Card and trying to get ourselves back into first place, so I think there’s something cooking here.” 

If Palacios’ early performance is an indication of what’s ahead, maybe he’ll provide the Pirates with the spark they needed — and in more ways than just one.

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Ron Cokain

Glad to have him back and producing. I always thought he provided more than his numbers suggested last year. But alas, he can’t really play CF, either. That’s where we really need a player. If they get Taylor Ward, he doesn’t play there, either.

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