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Palmball-throwing Holdzkom fans three in MLB debut

ST. LOUIS -- Among the things John Holdzkom brought to the Pirates with his Tuesday promotion from Indianapolis was a great story, just waiting to be written.

And the 26-year-old right-hander began to write it immediately, striking out the side when he made his big league debut in the eighth inning of the Bucs' 6-4 loss to the Cardinals.

He punched out Peter Bourjos, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter in front on 43,693 - -about 43,600 more than watched him 10 weeks ago pitching for San Angelo of United League Baseball -- the Independent loop out of which the Pirates signed him on June 23.

"Pitching in a big league stadium is every pitcher's dream. I tried to tell myself that it's no different than any other game. You have to have the same mental approach," said Holdzkom, whose debut inning -- perhaps naturally, given his unique background -- was quirky.

Bourjos reached first base after the leadoff strikeout -- because the palmball, a pitch Russell Martin had never before tried to catch, avoided the receiver for a wild pitch.

Right away, the most unique debut possible occurred to Holdzkom, who thought, "Oh, I have a chance now for four [strikeouts]."

Alas, that chance vanished when Martin caught Bourjos trying to steal.

The 6-foot-7 Holdzkom officially brought the palmball back to the Majors.

"Our guy is the only one who throws one now," manager Clint Hurdle declared of a pitch that was very popular among big leaguers at one time -- before the wildfire spread of the split-fingered fastball. Both pitches have a similar downward pattern, but the palmball puts greater stress on the elbow.

"I threw three of them," said Holdzkom, who also throws a hard cutter and a split-fingered fastball. "That's how I got the first and third [strikeouts], on the palmball. The palmer."

"I don't know what it was ... palmball, splitter, whatever. All I know, it was nasty," Martin said.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
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