9/3/2014 1:02 A.M. ET
Palmball-throwing Holdzkom fans three in MLB debut
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
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.
Polanco, Locke among those back with Bucs
ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates bolstered their bullpen and their bench on Tuesday with the addition of six players to the expanded September roster.
Two of the recalls from Triple-A Indianapolis were automatic: Lefty Jeff Locke, who made Tuesday night's start against the Cardinals, and outfielder Gregory Polanco.
Also recalled from the Indians were right-handers John Holdzkom and Casey Sadler, and lefty reliever Bobby LaFromboise.
Additionally, infielder/outfielder Chase d'Arnaud had his contract selected from Indianapolis. To make room for d'Arnaud on the 40-man roster, Michael Martinez was designated for assignment.
Locke had been optioned on Saturday, to clear space on the limited 25-man roster for infielder Brent Morel. Locke went 4-0 in August, so his "demotion" had been strictly for convenience.
Not so with Polanco. The Bucs' starting right fielder for more than two months was returned to the Minors on Aug. 24 in the throes of a 1-for-30 slump. At Indianapolis, Polanco went 4-for-26, with all four hits singles.
Sadler and d'Arnaud both have prior big league experience with the Pirates, the pitcher more recently. Sadler has appeared in five games this season, working a total of 9 1/3 innings in relief. d'Arnaud returns to the Pirates for the first time since 2012. Then exclusively a middle infielder, d'Arnaud has transitioned into the outfield, where he saw most of his Indianapolis play this season.
LaFromboise will take some of the burden off Justin Wilson, the Bucs' resident setup left-hander who has already appeared in a career-high 62 games.
"He's the third left-hander we have been looking for. He gives us another and earlier option for a left-hander," said manager Clint Hurdle.
LaFromboise, 28, was in the Mariners' Spring Training camp before being designated for assignment on March 27. He was first claimed off waivers by San Diego on April 2, then by the Bucs on Aug. 24.
LaFromboise, who made 10 appearances for the Mariners in 2013 (5.91 ERA in 10 games), spent most of this season with the Padres' Triple-A farm in El Paso, going 1-2 with three saves and an ERA of 4.75 in 58 outings.
Holdzkom, 26, was signed on June 23 out of independent ball. He posted a combined record of 3-0 with two saves, 1.95 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 22 relief appearances with Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.
Polanco returns to watch Lambo play right
ST. LOUIS -- "The only constant in baseball is change." Whoever coined that expression keeps nailing it.
Consider the continuing 2014 adventures of Gregory Polanco. One week after making his Major League debut, the smart guys established him as the odds-on favorite to earn National League Rookie of the Year Award honors. Adjustment woes eventually herded Polanco back to Triple-A Indianapolis.
The 22-year-old outfielder returned on Tuesday ... to watch Andrew Lambo play right field. For most of this season, Lambo had been a forgotten soul in Indianapolis, eclipsed by Polanco's shadow.
"I like the at-bats Lambo is giving us now," said manager Clint Hurdle, who kept intact the lineup facing St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright in Tuesday night's game. "We'll see if [either Lambo or Polanco] can catch some hot traction and go."
If and when Lambo falters, clearly Polanco will get his stretch chance. There is no question about his place in the Pirates' future, of course.
"I came back stronger, ready to play," Polanco said of his Triple-A timeout. "I know I just have to do my share, not try to do too much. I will keep playing hard, no matter what."
• Charlie Morton (sports hernia) threw a four-inning, 76-pitch simulated game Tuesday afternoon in which, according to Hurdle, he "had pretty good command" but "physically, he felt the same."
If Morton reports no day-after ill effects, he will next throw a bullpen session either Thursday or Friday, then another sim game in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
"We're just trying to keep his arm alive. We're not ready to run him back into the rotation," Hurdle said.
• With their 53rd one-run game on Monday, the Bucs eclipsed their 2013 total of 52.
• And another '13 stat already eclipsed by the Pirates: Their 74 first-inning runs are 10 more than they totaled last season .
First number, last word
19: Extra-base hits in August by Josh Harrison, the fifth Pirates player in history with as many in that month. Paul Waner had 24 in 1928, Max Carey (in 1924) and Waner (in 1930) had 20, and Reggie Sanders also had 19 in 2003.
"I'd like to get him in play. We've seen him good, and when he's on, we're better." -- Hurdle on Polanco, recalled from Triple-A on Tuesday.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.