SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. They say pitching is forever in demand.This time a year ago, Yusmeiro Petit had his doubts.
Petit, 27, had been released out of his minor leaguecontract by the Seattle Mariners. He went home to Miami and waited for thephone to ring. A month passed and nobody called.
I didnt want to go to Mexico, he said. But I need it.
Petit built strength in his troublesome shoulder whilepitching in Oaxaca, then started finding his groove with Margarita in theVenezuelan winter league. His manager there was Giants hitting coach HensleyMeulens and his bench coach was Giants roving infield instructor Jose Alguacil.Both of them used their influence to get him a minor league contract, whichPetit signed in November.
He went on to become one of the best pitchers in Venezuela.Tigres de Aragua picked him up for the playoffs and he was named MVP of thechampionship series.
Now hes back on the cusp of being back in the big leagues.
Petit pitched well enough in minor league camp to get acouple of opportunities in Cactus League games, and hes taken advantage ofthem. He pitched three scoreless innings of relief on Sunday and added fivemore Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, starting in place of MadisonBumgarner. (The Giants didnt want Bumgarner to face an NL West rival, eventhough the two clubs dont meet until May.)
Petit held the Dodgers to four hits, walked one and struckout four in the Giants' 4-1 victory at Scottsdale Stadium. His slider had good movement and his fastball was mostly near thebottom of the zone.
Its only eight innings, but Petit already is racing up thedepth chart. Especially with Eric Surkamps elbow requiring a couple weeks ofrest, the Giants dont have many attractive alternatives for their rotation.And teams never make it through a season with just five starting pitchers. RyanVogelsong is still building arm strength after his back injury, while BarryZito forever will be cause for concern.
Petit has starting experience, but not a track record ofsuccess. He was 3-10 with a 5.82 ERA in 23 games (17 starts) for the ArizonaDiamondbacks in 2009. He has appeared in 150 big league games overall for theDiamondbacks and Florida Marlins.
He knows how to pitch, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Heuses both sides of the plate, hes got savvy out there and good stuff, too. Itsencouraging to know weve got him down there. Were trying to get him stretchedout and hes doing a good job.
Petit said his winter ball experience gave him theconfidence he needed, and hes got a better feel for his cutter and slider.
Ive been throwing a good ball, especially down in thezone, Petit said. Fastball and cutter look the same. Thats hard for thehitters rhythm. My feeling is to stay here, work hard and if they need somethingand call me, thats good.
Hes also glad to have Venezuelas regular-season MVP,Gregor "White Shark" Blanco in his side.
Blanco, I faced him a lot, Petit said, smiling. He got acouple knocks.