Each time Joe Palumbo was asked if he knew the Texas Rangers’ plan for him beyond Wednesday, the left-hander essentially gave the same answer.
His goal for career start No. 2 is to give the Rangers a chance to win against the Cleveland Indians. If anything beyond that had crossed his mind, he wasn’t letting on.
That’s not a bad tack for a rookie.
General manager Jon Daniels, who is not a rookie, didn’t mince words.
“It’s not a spot start,” he said.
Palumbo is in the rotation to stay until he is told to leave, which has already happened to two Rangers starters this season. He’s filling the spot created when Drew Smyly was removed from the rotation last week.
He’s one of the few options the Rangers have, but he earned the chance.
Palumbo impressed June 8 in his MLB debut, allowing four runs in four innings against the Oakland A’s. He has impressed this season at Double A Frisco in his first full season after Tommy John surgery in 2017.
“I’m going to go out there with the same game plan,” Palumbo said. “Once I’m on the mound, I’m fine. I’m still going to be nervous, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m ready to get out there.
“I’m just taking everything day by day. I’m just doing what I can do to stick around.”
Right-hander Adrian Sampson, who also started the season in the minors, was ineffective Tuesday for a second straight start in the Rangers’ 10-3 loss.
The right-hander allowed five runs in three innings, with four of them coming in the third. Jose Ramirez hit a three-run homer to account for the big blow.
Smyly was actually worse, allowing three homers in relief of on back-to-back-to-back homers in the seven in the span of five pitches.
The Rangers are trudging toward the end of their stretch of 21 games in 20 days and will have some room to maneuver the rotation following an off day Monday. They used a bullpen day Friday to beat Cincinnati in the first start since Smyly was demoted to the bullpen.
All along, though, they wanted a starter in that spot, and Palumbo was the front-runner.
The Rangers sent Shelby Miller to the bullpen last month, and Edinson Volquez (elbow) is the third member of the Opening Day rotation no longer available to start.
Prospect Taylor Hearn is also down with an elbow injury from his first MLB start in late April. He should pitch again this season, but is likely out until late July or early August.
Lefty Yohander Mendez injured his elbow in spring training and also isn’t ready to pitch.
Righty Jonathan Hernandez is at Frisco and on the 40-man roster, but has been up and down this season. Lefty Brock Burke opened at Frisco but has been slowed by blisters this season and is on a rehab assignment.
The lack of depth led to Palumbo, but the Rangers like what he has shown this season.
“Joe has pitched well,” Daniels said. “He’s taken another stop in his development.”
He leaves Frisco with a 3.19 ERA in 11 games (10 starts), and he has struck out 69 batters in 53 2/3 innings. Texas League opponents are hitting only .221 against him.
Manager Chris Woodward said that Palumbo was in complete control over the first three innings of his debut before hitting some trouble in a four-run fourth. The Rangers will be cautious with Palumbo’s pitch counts after a light workload last season.
“He’s not going to throw 110 pitches,” Woodward said. “We’ll cap him at 80 to 90 at the most. He will run out of innings at some point. If he were to start the rest of the year for us, he would run out of innings. We have to be mindful of that.”
But Palumbo is going to make starts beyond Wednesday.
“Unless he were to go down and get hurt, I would assume he would stay in that for the time being,” Woodward said. “I’m excited for him. We’ll get to see him a few times and see how he responds. He’s deserving of it.”