It’s been a trying season for A’s reliever Yusmeiro Petit, both on and off the field.
At 92 innings pitched on the year entering Thursday, Petit has already surpassed his total from 2017 with the Angels as he finishes the season set to lead the majors in innings pitched by a relief pitcher for the second consecutive season. The 73 games he’s appeared in are by far the most in his 11 big league seasons.
It’s a tough grind on his arm, which at 33 years old still finds a way to get batters out on a consistent basis with a fastball that tops out around 89 mph. But his mind has gone through an even tougher grind.
Petit has dedicated this season to his mother, Rubia, who passed away earlier this year.
The right-hander always makes sure to write his mother’s initials, “RC,” on each of his caps before taking the field, and the emotions have admittedly gotten the best of him at times. But Petit has managed to stay strong on the mound.
“It has not been easy for me,” Petit said. “But I have a job to do and have to be ready at all times. It’s always hard being away from family throughout the season, but this one even more than usual.”
Staying ready for anything has been an impressive trait for Petit. A’s manager Bob Melvin has thrown anything from a fourth-inning long relief role to eighth-inning set up work at the veteran, and he’s responded with a 3.07 ERA, doing some of his best work recently as he’s surrendered just one run over his last 12 innings pitched.
It’s a mentality Petit has already rubbed off on a lot of his teammates, especially the younger latin players who frequently gather around his locker before games for advice.
“He’s been a great resource for us this year with guys used to roles who want particular innings,” Melvin said. “He tells them when the phone rings and you’re asked to pitch, that’s when you pitch. Not only has he performed well now that he’s not 22 anymore, but you look at the appearances and innings pitched, he’s pitching like he’s 25 as far as his workload. He’s gonna be a big personality in our bullpen as we get into the postseason.”
A two-time World Series champion, Petit is actually looking at this upcoming postseason with Oakland as a sort of redemption. He was part of the 2016 Washington Nationals squad that reached the postseason, but was left off the playoff roster after putting up a 4.50 ERA in the regular season.
“They didn’t feel like I pitched well enough to make it,” Petit said. “It is what it is.”
The A’s are certainly glad to have him. Even if he’s not a part of that back-end of the bullpen with the likes of Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino, Jeurys Familia, and Fernando Rodney, Petit’s experience makes him just as important of a piece, especially in the Oct. 3 wild-card game against the Yankees, as any of those guys available.
Petit was heroic in his previous postseason appearance in 2014 as a member of the San Francisco Giants. He tossed six scoreless innings of relief in an 18-inning victory over the Nationals in the NLDS, and also picked up a win in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Cardinals that year with three scoreless innings.
“You want a guy who has been in those type of situations so when the time comes and it’s his role in the postseason we have the utmost confidence in him and know he’s not gonna get nervous,” A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson said. “He’ll be able to keep things in perspective and slow the game down.”
Another reliever who might be able to provide value in the postseason is J.B. Wendelken.
The right-hander has surprised everyone with his strong performance since getting called up from the minors, posting a 0.57 ERA over 12 appearances entering Thursday, including an impressive seventh inning in Wednesday night’s victory over the Mariners where he struck out Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Denard Span in order.
“It’s a true three-plus pitch mix. The more he’s out there, the more comfortable he gets,” Melvin said. “You look at the stuff, the movement and all that, this guy’s got a chance to have really nice career and we think very highly of him.”
Wendelken isn’t just tough on righties, either. He’s held lefties to a batting average under .100, making him valuable in any number of situations.
The thought of Wendelken even sniffing a playoff spot before September would have been ludicrous, but he’s forced himself into the conversation.
“I wouldn’t rule him out,” Melvin said. “We’re gonna have some tough decisions to make.”