Sunday, March 23, 2014

Short Stay Sunday: Billy Petrick

Imagine yourself as a young, 23 year old rookie, getting called up to the major leagues for the first time for your hometown team (and the team you grew up rooting for) in the thick of a pennant race.  Sounds pretty exhilarating right?  That's what happened to one Billy Petrick in the summer of 2007.

The Morris, IL native was a third round draft choice by the Cubs in 2002 (talk about a weak drafting class, ugh).  A large man (6'7" and 245 lbs.) with a power arm, he drew comparisons to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.  I think you can figure out where this is going.

But, he struggled coming out of the rotation and had to undergo shoulder surgery mid-2005.  After that, he floundered in the system for a few more years, never advancing above A-ball.

It wasn't until he was switched to the bullpen that Petrick regained prospect status.  At that point, he rocketed up in the ladder, going from Daytona to the Major Leagues in just half of a season! He jumped from AA to the majors after going 1-1 with two saves and a 2.37 ERA in 18 relief appearances for Tennessee. He struck out 33 and walked eight.  The Cubs liked what they saw.

Enough to give him a shot in the bullpen in their chase for the division crown.  Upon being called up, he debuted against the Rockies, giving up a 2 run home run.  But, he set down 6 of the 7 batters he faced.  Five more scoreless appearances seemed to indicate that Petrick was up for good.

But that wasn't to be.  His velocity was ticking downward with each appearance.  His 98mph fastball upon his callup had dwindled to 87mph in just a few weeks.  Bats started to catch up and Petrick tried to pitch through.  After giving up 4 runs in just 1 inning in late July against the Cardinals, the Cubs had seen enough.

He was sent down to AAA.  Then AA.  By the end of 2008, he was all the way back in A-ball with no velocity returning.  The Cubs cut ties with Billy after that 2008 season and his career in affiliated baseball was over.

He wouldn't give up though.  Billy signed with my local minor league baseball team, the Windy City Thunderbolts based out of Crestwood, IL of the Frontier League, for the 2009 season to be their closer.  After 11 appearances for the 'Bolts with an impressive 2.13 earned run average, three saves, 15 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings, something popped in his elbow.

He tore a tendon and needed Tommy John surgery. It could have been the end for Billy, but he rehabbed and kept trying to regain that velocity that had brought him to the Majors.  

He was traded to my adopted hometown's minor league team in 2009, the Joliet Slammers, and came back to pitch 2 seasons more seasons for them.  After spending the 2012 season in the NABL with 2 teams, Billy finally packed it in, calling it a career after 10 years in the minors with just 8 big league appearances to his name.

Seeing as he pitched for my two favorite minor league teams and my favorite big league team, Billy Petrick will always be remembered fondly by me, even if he was just another name in the terrible 2002 draft by the Cubs.  Luke Hagerty, Bobby Brownlie, Chadd Blasko, Brian Dopirak... the only names with any success were Randy Wells and Rich Hill.  Yikes.

His rookie card in the 2007 edition of Topps Heritage would be his only Major League issue.  However, if anyone has one of his team-issued Thunderbolts or Slammers cards, I'll gladly organize a trade!  Unfortunately, I missed both of those days at the ballpark.


  1. Your storytelling reminded me of Woody Allen's Kirby Kyle, itself a parody of Monty Stratton.

  2. The Joliet Slammers! What a great name.

  3. It is, especially since it's a nod to Joliet's prison history. Much better than the team's old name - the JackHammers. I like it when the team name actually identifies with the community.

    1. Only thing I might like more is the Joliet Jakes--as long as they wear pork pie hats and sunglasses.