It’s no secret that one of the 2015 Brooklyn Cyclones’ strengths has been their bullpen.
Through thirty seven games, the group is pitching to a 9-4 record and a 1.68 ERA. The relief corps has played a rather large role in why Brooklyn, as a pitching staff, has given up the fewest number of earned runs in the New York-Penn League. The backbone of that back end, Alex Palsha, has seen individual success coincide with team success and the Danville, CA native is making a name for himself finishing games in Brooklyn.
The road to Coney Island began on the hometown west coast for the 23-year old right hander. After stints at two junior colleges where he started games, Palsha arrived at Sacramento State in 2014 and began being used exclusively out of the ‘pen. He broke the school’s record for appearances in a single season with 37 en route to helping win the Western Athletic Conference and making the All-Tournament team.
A short time later, Palsha was taken in the 27th round (805th overall) by the Mets in the 2014 MLB Draft and sent to the Gulf Coast League, where he continued honing his skills as a late-game relief pitcher. He served as closer for the GCL Mets and led the league in saves, converting ten out of eleven opportunities. To this point, the 2015 season has been another step forward for Palsha and has helped cement his comfort with having a defined role in the bullpen and feeling like a closer.
“You can start building yourself a routine every game; get your head ready before you go in,” Palsha said. “Though the Mets system, I feel like that’s the role they’re going to put me in. So I would definitely consider myself a closer.”
Some would even consider Palsha the best closer in the NYPL. In twelve games he’s tossed 14.2 innings but has yet to allow a run, carrying a non-existent ERA of 0.00. He’s the league leader in saves with eight (in eight opportunities) and is holding opponents to a .133 batting average against.
So, what makes Palsha so effective against both lefties and righties? He explains: “I feel like having a twelve-to-six curveball like mine, it’s just easier to throw to both sides of the plate because it doesn’t necessarily sweep across the plate…it goes straight down.”
The devastating breaking pitch has contributed to keeping hitters off balance and high strikeout totals. Palsha has fanned 17 batters while giving up just six hits and four walks, adding up to a minute 0.68 WHIP (Walks + Hits Per Innings Pitched).
However, success isn’t all physical. The mental approach for a closer isn’t quite the same as it is for someone in a more conventional middle-relief role and it’s no different for Palsha. “It’s the difference between getting your team a win or losing the game for your team,” he said. “You pretty much have to go out there thinking you’re going to dominate this team and get ‘em out successfully because if you don’t you’re going to lose the game.”
Alex also knows every outing isn’t going to end up in a perfect inning and that there will inevitably be times he needs to dig even deeper in order to come out on top. “You’ve got to be able to get yourself out of certain situations if someone gets on…that’s the biggest thing for me. Just getting out of jams,” he added.
Away from baseball, Palsha is a west coast kid spending his second year on the opposite side of the country and his first in the Big Apple. But the bigger stage, the larger crowds and speed of New York hasn’t seen the right hander shy away from a new environment. In fact, he relishes what the city offers and accepts the challenges it presents.
“There’s definitely a faster pace of people here…I actually like it. Fans are definitely dedicated to sports out here. They put, not a bad kind of pressure on you but a good kind of pressure. It’s fun having a lot of fans and I feel like you wouldn’t get this type of atmosphere, especially in a short season, being on the west coast. So this has been a pretty crazy experience.”
Still, it’s about more than just one man. Palsha knows he needs the rest of his bullpen mates in order to give him chances to nail down games in the ninth. He holds confidence in all of them and rightfully so. “Every pitcher in our bullpen has a closer’s type mentality to get the job done regardless of what time of the game they’re going in. We’ve proven that.”
It’s certainly been an impressive start for the Cyclones bullpen as a whole. Every night arms come into the game that gives Brooklyn a chance to win the game. And when they get to the end, they know there’s another one that isn’t too shabby. Alex Palsha is doing a fine job closing in Brooklyn as he continues his pursuit of his dreams in pro baseball.
-- Brian Sausa