Having made his Major League debut in 2001, new bullpen acquisition Joaquin Benoit has a wealth of experience to offer the Padres. He brings something even more important to a young pitching staff: a history of playoff success.
The 36-year-old right-hander has been in the postseason four years straight, the last three making deep runs into October with the Detroit Tigers – who come to town tonight for a weekend series at Petco Park.
To put it into perspective, his 20 playoff appearances are seven more than the rest of the Padres staff combined.
“It’s a playoff mentality,” he said of pitching on the big stage. “You just have to do your job. If you have the mindset on the small things, everything will take care of itself. Some things you can teach, but some things just come with experience.”
Those appearances include three trips to the American League Championship Series and two scoreless outings when the Tigers were swept at the hands of the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 World Series.
He served as the closer for the Tigers last year, racking up 24 saves in 26 opportunities with an impressive 2.01 ERA. He also saved three games in the postseason, but is probably most known for his ill-fated grand slam served up to Boston slugger David Ortiz that got the eventual World Series champion Red Sox back in the ALCS.
Like any good reliever, Benoit doesn’t dwell on what has already happened.
“That’s over. Baseball is a present game. You can’t be living in the past,” said. “It’s baseball. It’s part of the game. That pitch is not coming back.”
Now he’s in San Diego, enjoying his role as mentor to a very young pitching staff.
“He adds another weapon to our bullpen,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “Age wise in his career he brings a great deal of experience to our staff. He’s a great sounding board for guys like (Nick) Vincent and (Donn) Roach.”
He also has a new role – same as the old role for much of a 14-year career – as a setup man. It’s something Benoit relishes.
“I really enjoy it. It’s where I feel I can help the team,” he said. “To get to the ninth, you gotta have a clean eighth.”
As he heads into the latter portion of his career, he has become more realistic about his goals for the season.
“I’m really trying to keep myself healthy,” said Benoit, who has made at least 55 appearances in all but one season since 2006. He has already taken the mound four times for the Friars this year – three of them scoreless outings. “I just want to try to help the young guys and myself.”
He downplays a reunion with his old teammates from Detroit.
“It’s baseball. It’s normal to get to see the guys you played with,” he said. “I’m gonna have time to chat and to catch up. But it’s part of the game. I just enjoy the ride.”
Padres fans can only hope the ride includes extending that playoff streak another year.