Ricardo Jose Palma
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 1", Weight 160 lb.
Ricardo Palma spent parts of three seasons at AAA.
Palma began his career in 1996 in Latin America. He came to the USA in 1997 with the Williamsport Cubs; the team's youngest player at age 17, he was 4-7 with a 3.48 ERA, better than the team average. The southpaw posted a 7-6, 4.46 record with the 1998 Rockford Cubbies; Jon Garland, one day younger, was the only younger hurler on the club.
Ricardo continued to claim the Cubs chain. In 1999, he was 7-7 with a 2.94 ERA for the Lansing Lugnuts; the only younger pitcher on the team was Carlos Zambrano. Palma was second on the club in ERA, behind the team's closer. he was fourth in the Midwest League in ERA behind Robert Averette, Terry Hayden and Juan Rincon.
The left-hander hit the skids in 2000 with the Daytona Cubs, going 4-8 with a 4.70 ERA in a pitcher-friendly league. Still just 21, Palma moved to the bullpen with the 2001 West Tenn Diamond Jaxx. In 57 games, he was 4-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 70 2/3 IP. He led the team in appearances, four shy of Southern League leader Chris Booker.
The Venezuelan southpaw had an excellent 2002 season with West Tenn, going 1-2 with a 1.71 ERA in 43 games and striking out almost a batter per inning. He pitched two games for the AAA Iowa Cubs and allowed 2 runs in 3 innings. In August, Chicago traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates with Tim Lavery and cash considerations for Aron Weston. Pittsburgh assigned him to the Altoona Curve, where he was 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA.
Palma spent all of 2003 with Altoona, going 6-5 with a 3.67 ERA; he was still younger than about three-quarters of his staff teammates. Ricardo went 5-2 with a 3.25 ERA for Occidente Pastora in the 2003-2004 Venezuelan Winter League. He pitched in the 2004 Caribbean Series.
The Detroit Tigers signed Palma for 2004. He was assigned to the Erie SeaWolves, where he was 2-11 with 10 saves and a 4.41 ERA in 53 games. He led the club in appearances, losses and saves. The Maracay native improved to 6-2, 2.02 for Occidente in the winter of 2004-2005; he was second in the VWL in ERA.
That winter ball performance did not convince any MLB clubs to sign him. Instead, he split the summer of 2005 between the Cancun Lobstermen and Aguascalientes Rieleros in the Mexican League, going a combined 6-4 with a 5.97 ERA and 125 hits in 98 innings.
Palma was chosen for the Venezuelan national team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. The only other pitcher on the staff not active in the majors at the time was Victor Moreno. Ricardo made his lone appearance against the Cuban national team. The veteran left-hander relieved Moreno in the 7th, with two on and two out and Venezuela already out of the game for all intents and purposes. He got Frederich Cepeda to pop up to end that threat. In the 8th, he gave up a single to Ariel Pestano but struck out slugger Joan Carlos Pedroso and retired Carlos Tabares and Eduardo Paret. In the 9th, he went 1-2-3, whiffing Michel Enríquez and retiring Yulieski Gourriel and Leslie Anderson on grounders.
Returning to Aguascalientes for 2006, Palma was 4-2 with a 5.34 ERA and 1.73 WHIP in 11 games.
He was back with the Venezuelan national team for the 2007 Pan American Games. In 3 innings against Panama, he allowed four runs to take the loss against Rodrigo Tello. He had the highest ERA on Venezuela in the Pan American Games that year.