The Tucson Padres have an on-field rule this season-call it the Gregorio Petit rule.

Talking to players from the other team during the game is allowed, but only for 20 seconds at a time.

"He talks to every player at every stop," Tucson manager Pat Murphy said of Petit. "We put a 20-second limit on it. That's the Petit rule. It's unbelievable. He's the senator. I tell him he can't get any more votes because everyone already loves him."

That's Petit in a nutshell. The 28-year-old Venezuelan loves to smile and have fun and he wants the people around him to do the same.

Whether it's before, during or after a game, if you're around Petit, you better be ready for some good-natured ribbing.

"I'm a happy guy; that's just the way I am," Petit said. "I like to have fun as much as I can. I just do my thing every day. If they like the way I'm doing things, they're welcome to join me. If they don't, they're welcome to get away. I'm fine with that.

"I live in my own world and try to keep it as happy as I can."

There's a reason for this.

Petit has always considered himself a joyful person and said his "whole career has been a happy one." But, there was a moment of clarity for the infielder and it came in the winter of 2011.

After spending the 2010 season with Oklahoma City, then the Triple-A affiliate for the Texas Rangers, Petit went back to his home country to play winter ball for Leones del Caracas.

Eleven days after signing a minor league free agent contract with the San Diego Padres, Petit tore his ACL and meniscus on an awkward slide at the plate, trying to score.

The Padres released him a few weeks later and he was forced to miss the entire 2011 season while rehabbing. With no team to call his own, Petit stayed in Venezuela with his then-pregnant wife, Yessica, and their daughter, Greysca, and worked every day to try to be ready in time for 2012.

Petit thought he always knew how much he loved baseball, but realized he didn't until it was taken away from him.

"Even the bad days, I missed them," Petit said. "I missed going 0-for. I missed making an error. I missed the clubhouse.

"I missed everything that comes with the game."

So he decided when he got healthy, he'd approach the game a different way.

"Every day is just another day to have fun," Petit said. "I wouldn't say I don't get mad, because of course I do. I get disappointed. But, it goes away from me quickly."

Petit signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians last season and played the whole year with Triple-A Columbus. He batted .260, but more importantly, he got healthy and played in 111 games.

The Padres saw enough to be convinced he was healthy and two years after signing him and then releasing him, they inked him to another deal and assigned him to Tucson.

His new approach to the game is working.

He went 1 for 3 with a walk in Tucson's 7-0 loss to Tacoma on Monday night at Kino Stadium. He is batting .307 with 16 doubles, 39 RBIs and 32 runs scored.

He's a natural shortstop, but can also play second and third.

"He's been our most valuable defender," Murphy said. "You want the ball hit to him. It's obvious he's been through some things. He doesn't get too up; he doesn't get too down."

Petit has 25 major league games to his credit (14 with Oakland in 2008 and 11 more in 2009) and has a career .278 batting average in 54 at-bats.

He'd love to get back to the big leagues, but that's not what fuels him. Having fun, and being a good father to two is what gets his juices going.

"It is a motivation, of course," Petit said of reaching the majors again. "Everyone wants to get back. But, I try to keep it out of my mind as much as I can. I'm a dad when I leave here and I'm a dad until I get here again."

Added Petit: "I know I have to play the game and give the best of myself and then wait, wait, wait. Then when that door opens, hopefully they'll give me a shot."


• Who: Sacramento at Tucson

• When: 7:05 p.m.

• Radio: 1290-AM

¡Tus Padres!

Tacoma 7, Tucson 0

• Highlight: Sunnyside High School graduate Stefen Romero went 3 for 4 with a grand slam and two runs scored to lead the Rainiers to a win in the first of a three-game series. Romero, who also played at Pima Community College, homered off his former Oregon State University teammate Jorge Reyes in the seventh with Tacoma leading 3-0. It was his sixth home run of the season. Tucson outfielder Kalian Sams had three of the Padres' five hits in the loss.

• Big number: 104: Tacoma starter James Paxton threw 104 pitches over nine innings for his first career professional shutout. He walked two and struck out four.

• Tonight's starters: RHP Burch Smith (3-1, 2.57 ERA) vs. RHP Andrew Carraway (6-2, 3.14 ERA)

- Daniel Berk