Player Preview: Yusmeiro Petit
The evolution of the modern bullpen has made Yusmeiro Petit one of the last few swing men in baseball. Petit can work out of the bullpen for an inning, as a long reliever, or make a spot start when needed. While versatility is being valued among position players it has been devalued in pitchers. Gone is nearly all uniqueness of relievers and the modern reliever is a tall, broad shouldered, fastball slinging strikeout machine. nearing extinction is variety of ground ball specialist, fork ball specialists, junk hurlers, and swing men. Yusmeiro Petit is the last of a dying breed and he could be the glue that holds the Nationals bullpen together.
Petit isn't going to get much glory. He may even end up with a high ERA. In 2012 Tom Gorzelanny was one of the most important members of the Nats bullpen but he hardly ever pitched when the team was winning and carried a high ERA for the entire season due to a couple bad performances early in relief of unproductive starters. What Gorzelanny did for the 2012 Nationals Petit can do in 2016. Yusmeiro Petit's main job will be to pitch when nobody else would want to.
Here's an example. The Nationals are down early. Tanner Roark has given up five runs in an inning and a third and the game the night before went extra innings. The bullpen is tired and the Nats need someone to get them to the seventh and it isn't going to be Roark. Enter Yusmeiro Petit. He won't be getting any glory, a money producing stat, or any mention of gratitude from fans or media, but what he will be doing is saving the bullpen. That is important and lost in the ebb and flow of a baseball season. Fans and media complain about loses and celebrate wins. The pitcher that comes in to mop up losses doesn't get much acclaim.
Mopping up losses isn't the only way Petit will be used. Consider the situation of a starting pitcher making it into the fifth and then looking gassed and out of it. If every reliever is a one inning or less pitcher then there are few ways to get through the game and be ready for the next. Petit's ability to pitch more than one inning at a time allows him to come in and bridge the gap to the late innings and get the ball in the hands of the set-up man and closer.
Yusmeiro Petit has versatility and will be vital the the Nationals success in 2016. He won't get much credit for it, but remember it is the long man working hard when no one else wants to that makes all the other jobs that much easier and keeps the bullpen fresh.