You’ve heard about switch-hitters. Now, meet Pat Venditte, a switch-pitcher.
That’s right. Venditte, who was called up by the Oakland A’s to the MLB on Friday afternoon, is able to pitch with either one of his hands, a trick he picked up when he first started playing baseball as a kid.
Venditte, 29, generally pitches out of the bullpen and isn’t a promotional stunt for the win-seeking A’s. He’s a solid pitcher and a bit of a surprise for opposing batters.
Here’s what you need to know about the MLB’s latest up-and-coming pitcher:
1. Venditte Spent Seven Seasons in the New York Yankees Minor League System
Venditte was drafted by the New York Yankees, twice. He was first selected in the 45th round in 2007 but opted to return to Creighton for his senior season. He was then selected again, in the 20th round, in 2008.
He climbed the Yankees minor league ranks, throwing for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees last summer, before signing a minor league contract with the A’s this year.
He appeared in 17 games with the Nashville Sounds, boasting a 1.36 ERA with 33 striekouts and just 13 walks, while holding opponents to a collective batting average of .167.
2. In Addition to Throwing With Both Arms, Venditte Also Throws Sidearm
As with any pitcher, Venditte, who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, boasts an arsenal of available pitches on the mound. The only difference? Venditte can do it with both arms and his approach changes slightly depending on the arm.
His slider, curveball and fastball are a little bit more powerful with his right hand, with the fastball clocking in around 94 miles per hour on the right side. His left-handed delivery tends to be a little more sidearm with a slider and fastball that tops out around 85 miles per hour.
Venditte underwent surgery on his right shoulder in 2012 and, as part of his rehab, worked with Gil Patterson on adding more of a sidearm approach from the right. The idea is that the sidearm throw would be less taxing on the injured shoulder and, most importantly, keep Venditte on the mound that much longer.
3. He Uses a Six-Finger Glove & Warms Up With Both Arms
Venditte credits his father for the initial idea to become a switch-pitcher. The two began practicing everything twice, going through the motions of the game with both right and left hands.
Pat Venditte Sr. told Newsday:
The idea just came to me. I thought, ‘Why can’t somebody throw with both arms? What precludes someone from doing that?’
So, Venditte starting throwing with both hands and, very quickly, realized that normal baseball gear wouldn’t work with his approach. Thus, the six-finger glove was created. Venditte orders his gloves custom-made with a six-finger holes so that his thumb can fit, no matter what hand he’s choosing to pitch with.
According to an ESPN the Magazine feature on Venditte earlier this year, the first six-finger glove came from Osaka, Japan. Venditte, Sr. set up the order, sending a traced outline of his son’s hand to the outfitters and then flew from Omaha to San Francisco to pick up the glove.
Venditte, in addition to a very specific type of glove, has a very specific type of warm-up. The relief pitcher warms up with both of his arms in the pen, alternating between each arm in the same way a “normal” pitcher would warm up with his dominant arm.
4. He Has a Baseball Rule Named After Him; the Pat Venditte Rule
Venditte’s rare ambidextrous talents forced an actual change in the overall game of baseball.
The Professional baseball Umpire Corporation issued a new rule in July 2008 for dealing with switch-pitchers like Venditte, referring to it as the Pat Venditte Rule, limiting the number of times that a switch-pitcher or switch-hitters can change sides during one at-bat.
In general terms, the rule requires a pitcher to indicate to the umpire, the batter and any on-base runners which arm he intends to pitch with during that at-bat. Once he has indicated, the pitcher is not allowed to switch hands until the opposing batter has been retired.
The NCAA and National Federation of High Schools also adopted a similar rule.
5. He’s the Third Switch-Pitcher in MLB History
Venditte is not the first switch-pitcher in pro baseball history. He’s the third.
Montreal Expos pitcher Greg Harris threw as a switch-pitcher for one inning against the Cincinnati Reds in 1995. Harris retired Reggie Sanders and Brett Boone from the right side and, in between those two batters, threw to Hal Morris and EddieTaubenese from the left side.
Before Harris’ performance there had not been a switch-pitcher since 1894. That’s 121 years ago. It seems Venditte is primed to make a little bit of history when he makes his major league debut with the A’s.