SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It had been more than seven months since Joe Palumbo played a live baseball game. He gave up two singles and a home run in a “rolled” inning Thursday in the Rangers’ 5-3 victory over the Padres, but that tough inning didn’t matter to him because he was just happy to be back on the field.
Because of complications with ulcerative colitis, Palumbo’s 2020 season was cut short, ending Aug. 1 after two appearances.
“I was, honestly, just happy to be back out there on the mound,” Palumbo said. “I thought I was a little more nervous than what I typically feel like before I get into a game, but it's been a little while for me since I've been there.
“It was great to get that first outing out of the way, even though you know the results weren't there.”
Palumbo mostly worked on his changeup Thursday against the Padres. He said he worked a lot on that during the offseason and felt confident using it in a game. The damage against him -- Nick Tanielu’s three-run home run in the first inning -- came on a hanging curveball. Palumbo said he felt like he served it on a plate for him. Manager Chris Woodward rolled the inning soon after.
"Finishing the inning is important, and you know if I would have come back after the home run and gotten that hitter out, it would have said a lot," Palumbo said. "But like I said, it's just something to work on. First spring [game], and I was just happy to get back out there and pitch and compete again. I know I'll be better as time goes on."
This time last year, Palumbo started experiencing symptoms of ulcerative colitis. It was manageable back then, but not for long. At the end of the season, Palumbo ended up in the hospital for five days because of complications.
According to the Mayo Clinic, ulcerative colitis is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Palumbo was diagnosed in November 2016 but had been in remission the entire time before the flare-up last year. He said it was a complication with his old medication that caused the flare-up.
The only two games Palumbo played in the shortened 2020 season were on July 26 and Aug. 1. He was in the hospital a week later.
Palumbo explained that it wasn’t pain, but rather a feeling of urgency and feeling unwell. He dropped almost 30 pounds during that time, from 195 to 165 before doctors changed his medication. Palumbo’s new medication has worked so far. His weight is back up to 185 pounds, and he was able to work out normally for most of the offseason, weightlifting and throwing.
For Palumbo, success in 2021 would be just being on the mound and pitching in Major League games after the ulcerative colitis and a slew of minor injuries have limited his career so far.
“I'm going to do everything I can to be as healthy as I can this year,” Palumbo said. “I think I'm headed in the right direction in that regard. I love starting. I always loved being a starting pitcher, but literally any way that I could help this team win, I will.”
“He keeps moving the ceiling, so to speak, with his ability to execute pitches,” Woodward said. “His stuff has actually trended up over the last couple of years, which has really put him basically on the radar and on the map, as far as a big picture goes.”