But the Angels outfielder finally connected with a solo blast with two outs in the ninth inning of a 2-1 loss against the Indians on Saturday at Goodyear Ballpark. It marked the first time he had homered since going deep on Aug. 27, 2009, while with the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees.
It was a special moment for Pettit and the club, especially considering how far he's come since he suffered a gruesome shoulder injury, including a torn labrum, in a collision at home plate in the Dominican Winter League following the 2009 season.
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"Chris has a little bit of pop, and he really got ahold of that one there," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said with a smile. "He hadn't played in a year, so it had been a while. So we're excited for Chris. He's worked hard to get where he is."
That hard work has certainly been paying off for Pettit, 26, who is having an impressive spring after missing the previous year following labrum surgery last March. After Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Mariners, Pettit is batting .300 with a home run, four RBIs, six runs, two stolen bases and six walks.
"I feel like I've had some good at-bats," Pettit said. "I feel like I'm still working on my swing. There are some good swings and some bad swings after a layoff like that."
But it's been a long and hard road back to recovery for Pettit, after he tried to make his return last spring before realizing his throwing shoulder still didn't feel right. He opted for season-ending surgery, which was a difficult decision considering he was on the path to the big leagues.
After all, Pettit was coming off his first taste of the Majors in 2009, when he was a September callup and hit .286 (2-for-7), including his first big league hit on Sept. 29 against the Rangers. And he had an impressive line of .321/.383/.482 with eight homers and 18 stolen bases in Triple-A that season.
But that collision in the Dominican Winter League derailed his plans for the 2010 season, and that's why his successful return this spring is all the more impressive.
"Chris is a guy that at an important time in his career had a major setback, and that's unfortunate," Scioscia said. "But he's a player who can do a lot of things. We're working on his versatility a little bit, giving him a chance to work at first base, also. In the batter's box, he has a nice idea of what to do."
Pettit is learning that his shoulder still doesn't always feel like it used to and can be a bit tricky to deal with at times. But he threw out a runner from left field on a relay play last week, and he said it's getting closer to feeling like it once did.
"It feels good," Pettit said. "It's different because I'm still working my way back. So even though it's 100 percent, everyone says it takes a while before it really feels great again. There are still some good days and bad days."
Luckily for Pettit, the good days outnumber the bad days, and the shoulder has no bearing on his swing.
"I don't feel it at all when I hit," Pettit said. "And I didn't when it was torn either. So it could've been a subconscious issue before, but now I don't feel it."
So, for now, Pettit is just working toward showing the club he can be fully healthy for a season and get another callup to the big leagues.
It was a special trip to the Majors the first time, considering he's a local product, from San Dimas High School and Loyola Marymount University.
"That's the goal always -- to get back up there," Pettit said with a grin. "I'm just concentrated on coming in healthy. I'm not worried about setting numbers goals, really. I just want to show them I'm healthy and go from there."