ANAHEIM — When Chris Devenski used to finish practice at Golden West College, it was time for extra work.
Not in the weight room. In his 1987 Mazda B-22 pickup.
“I’d head for my dad’s place, and I’d drive around Santa Ana looking for scrap metal,” Devenski said. “When I got enough I’d tie it down. I always thought I had a good load when I had so much stuff that I couldn’t go any faster than 35.
“Maybe if you picked up some old TV sets and refrigerators, maybe a water heater or an oven, you could turn it into $75 or $100. You’d clean up the brass, make it look nice. That truck was given to me by a friend who lived in New York, and it had a little rust on it. But that’s how I made my extra gas money. It got me by.”
Life was a long haul for his dad Mike, too. He had and still has a hauling company in Santa Ana, and Chris was on that truck when he wasn’t playing ball.
You build strong hands dong that, good for gripping baseballs and pitching hard innings through the forest of games that await you.
And you learn life on the fly, near the corner of Main and 17th in Santa Ana, where the nearby streets can become battlegrounds.
“The truck had a stick shift and I’d never driven one before,” Devenski said, laughing. “My dad said, you want to learn to drive a stick? Get in there and drive it.”
The skin gets thick, too.
Devenski is the linchpin for the bullpen of the Houston Astros, a team that is nearing its postseason destiny without the self-inflicted drama exhibited by some teams we know. The Astros are 87-57, closing in on their first American League West title, hoping to play in their second World Series.
Runs and hits ooze from every pore of this lineup. The Astros will be well-represented on MVP ballots. But they will either win or lose October on the mound. Their bullpen WHIP of 1.30 is only eighth in the American League, and the relievers have given up 69 home runs.
They talk about “bridges” from the starter to the closer, and Devenski has been pure concrete. He has pitched the second most innings of any reliever in the league (to the Angels’ Yusmeiro Petit). He was second last year, too. Both years he has kept his WHIP under 1.000, and he was in the All-Star Game this year, a place that is usually no country for 35th-round draft choices.
“He was with us the year before I got the head coaching job,” Cal State Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook said. “I was begging him to stay. We were a little short of…