OAKLAND -- Yusmeiro Petit's 500th career game was already a big accomplishment on the surface. In doing so, the A’s reliever became only the 24th active pitcher in the Majors to reach the milestone.
But for Petit, 500 appearances has a deeper meaning.
In the history of Major League Baseball, there had been only three Venezuelan-born pitchers to appear in 500 games. Earlier this week, Petit joined that exclusive group, reaching the mark when he entered Tuesday’s game against the Mariners in relief and retired the only batter he faced.
“I’m really happy about it, because it’s a level that is hard to reach,” Petit said. “Especially for Venezuelans, there aren’t many who have reached that figure. I’m really happy because of the journey I took. I was a starter, and now I’ve been able to contribute so much as a reliever."
Petit, a native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, admired the careers of his fellow countrymen who reached 500 games before him: Francisco Rodríguez (948), Rafael Betancourt (680) and Ugueth Urbina (583).
Rodríguez was a player whom Petit particularly grew a fondness for. In addition to an illustrious 16-year big league career that included six All-Star selections and a World Series championship, Rodríguez also spent several of his prime years going back to Venezuela, where he was viewed as a hero, to pitch in front of his adoring fans during winter ball.
“Those three are legends in Venezuela,” Petit said. “Francisco pitched a lot here. After he debuted here in the United States, he always went back home to play as well. I admired him, because it’s a lot of hard work to do what he did.”
Petit is on his way to legend status in his home country as well, and a lot of that has to do with the stellar work he’s continued to turn in over the latter part of his career. Now 36, the 14-year Major League veteran has shown no signs of slowing down. He entered Friday’s game against the Yankees with a 3.06 ERA and an MLB-high 64 games pitched. He was tied for second in reliever wins (eight) and innings pitched (64 2/3) and had the fourth fewest walks per nine innings (1.4).
Workhorse would be an understatement to describe Petit. Since the start of 2017, he’s appeared in more games (304) than any pitcher in baseball.
Of course, the numbers only tell half the story. There’s also Petit's presence in the A’s clubhouse, where he sits atop the hierarchy as a team leader. Though he’s on the quieter side, compared to other leaders like Chris Bassitt and Matt Chapman, Petit tends to lead by example, with an impressive work ethic that has rubbed off on the younger members of the pitching staff.
“He’s a rock,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He resonates well in our clubhouse, too. You see the production on the field, but what he means to our team and his personality, how he goes about his business, everybody watches pretty closely, as they should.”
In addition to having the most games pitched since 2017, Petit entered Friday with a 2.80 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over that span. Many of Petit’s teammates wonder what the secret has been to that late-career success. The answer is simple: confidence.
Petit said it started in 2017 with the Angels, when manager Mike Scioscia showed faith in him with high-leverage spots. That same trust has been shown by Melvin over the past four years, and Petit has rewarded him more often than not with consistent strong outings.
“I think I’ve gained confidence from the team just giving me the ball and telling me to go to work,” Petit said. “In Anaheim, Mike Scioscia trusted me and gave me a lot of opportunities. Here, Bob Melvin gives me so many opportunities. That has given me confidence, and that’s why I think I’ve been able to have success as the years go on. And of course, keeping the arm and body healthy.”