OAKLAND – At first glance, Yusmeiro Petit’s 500th appearance in the majors was a major achievement, as the Athletics reliever became just the 24th active pitcher to reach that number.
But for Petit, reaching 500 presentations has a greater meaning.
In the history of Major League Baseball, only three Venezuelan pitchers have made 500 or more appearances in the Big Top. Earlier in the week, Petit joined that exclusive club, reaching the round number when he entered Tuesday’s game against the Mariners and retired the only batter he faced.
“I am very happy, because it is difficult to reach that level,” said Petit. “Especially in the case of Venezuelans, there are not many who have reached that number. I am very happy with the trajectory that I have had. He was a starter, and now I have been able to contribute a lot as a reliever ”.
The Maracaibo native watched the careers of his three compatriots who have also pitched in 500 major league games: Francisco Rodríguez (948), Rafael Betancourt (680) and Ugueth Urbina (583).
“Those three are legends in Venezuela,” Petit said. “Francisco threw a lot here [en Grandes Ligas]. After he debuted here in America, he always came home to pitch there too. I admired him, because it takes a lot of effort to do what he did ”.
Petit is also on his way to becoming a legend in his country, and that is largely due to the great work he has done late in his career. At 36, the 14-year major league veteran has shown no signs of a decline. Petit entered Saturday with a 3.06 average this season and leads the majors with 64 appearances. He also ranks second among Big Top relievers in wins (eight) and innings worked (64.2).
Of course, the numbers only tell part of the story. There is also Petit’s presence in the Oakland clubhouse, where he is one of the team leaders.
“He’s a rock,” Athletics foreman Bob Melvin said. “He fits in well in our dressing room too. You see the production in the field, but what it means for our team and its personality, how it is handled, everyone looks at all that closely, how they should do it ”.
In addition to pitching in more games (304) than any other pitcher since the start of the 2017 season, Petit entered Saturday with a 2.80 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in that stretch. Many of Petit’s teammates wonder what the key to Petit’s success has been at this point in his career. The answer is simple: trust.
Petit said it all started in 2017 with the Angels, when foreman Mike Scioscia showed faith in him by putting him to pitch in pressing situations. Melvin has shown him that same level of confidence over the past four years, and Petit has rewarded him with consistent solid starts.
“I think the fact that the team gives me the ball and tells me to get to work has given me a lot of confidence,” Petit said. “In Anaheim, Mike Scioscia trusted me and gave me many opportunities. Here, Bob Melvin gives me many opportunities. That has given me a lot of confidence and I think that is why I have been able to succeed over the years. And of course, keep your arm and body healthy ”.