CLEVELAND -- Having endured seven Minor League seasons before finally making his breakthrough into the big time, Matt Palmer was determined to do everything in his power to continue to compete against the best, in the lap of luxury hotels, and avoid those long, mind-numbing bus rides.
Palmer pushed the envelope as far as it would go this season before conceding that he had nothing left to give in his right arm -- and even then it was the Angels' training staff that shut down the 31-year-old pitcher from the "Show Me" state of Missouri.
"I started to feel it about halfway through Spring Training," Palmer said, referring to the acute sprain of the right sternoclavicular joint. "In the second week of the season, I knew it was a problem. I can throw through pain -- to the point that it locked up on me. There was no sense pushing it. We've got a good training staff here, and they told me I needed to go on the shelf.
"I didn't pick up a ball for a month. It was hurt a lot more than I thought."
A versatile and valuable contributor both as a starter and reliever in 2009, Palmer went 11-2 with a 3.93 ERA in 121 1/3 innings. Nobody wore a Major League uniform more proudly or performed his role with more diligence, qualities that did not escape the notice of manager Mike Scioscia.
"This guy did everything we could have asked of him last year," Scioscia said. "Matty Palmer is the kind of guy you love to have on your ballclub."
With life back in his arm, Palmer returned to the Angels on Sept. 6 after delivering a 2.72 ERA in 13 appearances for Salt Lake in the hitters' paradise known as the Pacific Coast League. His work since rejoining Scioscia's staff -- five innings, no runs allowed -- underscores how much he was missed. Trying to pitch through the pain, he was knocked around for a 6.26 ERA in 23 innings before going to the DL.
"I went through some adversity and challenged myself," Palmer said. "I think I'm a better pitcher for that. It's like with our team. It's the first time in a long time it's faced adversity. This is a great team, with great people and a great coaching staff. I'm confident the team will respond to this adversity and come back strong."