Friday, June 5, 2015

Ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte finally realizes major league dream

All hail Pat!
On June 6, 2015, Venditte made his major league debut for the Oakland Athletics. He threw two scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox, yielding one hit and striking out a batter. The natural right-hander, used his left arm to get hitters out as well. He became the first pitcher since Greg Harris threw with his alternate arm (left) in one game during the last year of his career while a member of the Montreal Expos' relief corps in 1995.
And so, all those years of working with the originator of this experiment, his father, Pat Sr., has proven successful. All hail creative innovation and persistent belief in one's abilities. Only within the great game called baseball could something so unusually cool play out in a professional league.

Update as of 6/12/15: Due to a right shoulder strain, the A's put Venditte on the DL, retroactive to June 11. While he could still throw with his left arm, his ability to match left arm verses left-handed batter, etc., doesn't currently exist. So, the A's opted to give him time to recover and return when fully healthy.
(The remaining text originally appeared within my published feature on Yahoo's platform in 2011.)
There are many late-inning situations where a manager needs to use one of his trusted bullpen arms to get an opposing batter out. Strategy involving opposing hitters averages against a left, or right-handed, pitcher is naturally a part of the decision making process.
The New York Yankees have a farmhand who pitches for their Double-A Trenton Thunder team. He may never make the major leagues, but already has his own fanclub.
Of course there haven't been many minor leaguers, or major leaguers, who can throw with both arms.
A ticket to the show
The Yankees must believe that Venditte has the ability to make a major league roster, as they drafted him twice. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, we are not quite sure if one scout saw him throw left-handed and the other right-handed.

Nevertheless, the Bronx Bombers selected him in the forty-fifth round of the 2007 amateur draft and then again in the twentieth round of the 2008 amateur draft.
Special rule
According to baseball's rule book, an ambidextrous pitcher must pitch with the same hand during a hitters entire at-bat.
Without that directive, Venditte could delay a game for days simply by refusing to allow a batter to take the opposite side of the plate.
The only pitcher to throw with both arms?
Well most pitchers do throw with both arms. But, flipping the ball to first base with your glove hand during a hurried bunt play isn't what we are referring to.

Journeyman Greg Harris alternated arms during one game while pitching for the Boston Red Sox a few decades ago.
Unlike Venditte, Harris did not continue with his experiment.
Beyond a gimmick
Venditte's strategy is more than a gimmick.
He has a career ERA that is slightly above 2.00 over the course of four minor league seasons.
At 26, he isn't certain to see the inside of Yankee stadium. For that to happen he will need to take his specially made six-fingered glove to the Yankees Triple-A team in Scranton, Pa.
At the start of my career I worked at the stadium where he could play someday. At that time the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons were the Triple-A farm team of the Phillies. We never saw anyone like Venditte back then.
If he does make it to my old stomping grounds and is able to get enough International League hitters out with either, or both, arm(s) he just might get that call to the majors.
(Image, via ESPN, was taken while Venditte was with Nashville Sounds in the PCL earlier this season.)
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