07 May 2009
The Yankees may be struggling right now, but they have a secret weapon in their minor league system: 23-year old Pat Venditte, the switch-pitching reliever.
...you can see something right now that hasn't been around in baseball since the late 1800s: a switch-pitcher.
His name is Pat Venditte, he's 23, and he's pro baseball's only ambidextrous pitcher. This living piece of history is more than a YouTube star; he's throwing almost daily for the Charleston RiverDogs, the Yankees' Single-A club. And he's not just throwing: He's blowing through hitters like a Cub Scout through Skittles. At one point in April, the closer's ERA was 0.00 in 6 1/3 innings, and he hadn't blown a save in five games.
Last season, he had 23 saves for the Staten Island Yankees, with a 0.83 ERA. And best of all, the kid can relieve himself!
He wears a specially made six-fingered Mizuno glove with two thumbs. (His Dominican teammates call him Pulpo, Spanish for "octopus.") When he warms up, he throws four pitches righty and four lefty. You should see the opposition when he does it. It's as if they had seen a ghost. Wait--did you just see that? If a righty is up, he throws righty, and vice versa. Whenever Venditte switches sides, everybody in the Charleston ballpark is encouraged to switch seats.
* * * *
The pitching coach has to file two reports: Venditte the lefty and Venditte the righty. And he should; they're two different pitchers. The righty has a 90 mph fastball, a curve and a nice change. The lefty comes sidearm and has a murderous slider and a change. He's a five-pitch pitcher! Once, in Little League, the other team's coach came up to Pat Sr. and said, "Your twins pitched a heck of a game."
* * * *
For Pat, it's meant a way to chase his dream of playing in the Show someday. "I know I wouldn't be this far without it," he says. "I don't have dominating stuff from one side or the other. I need both."
Not that it doesn't cause problems. If he walks a hitter, fans will start hollering, "Try the other side!" People want him to sign autographs with both hands. And switch-hitters will switch batter's boxes, making Venditte switch the glove, starting a cat-and-mouse game that can go on for 10 minutes. Minor league umps now have the Venditte Rule: At the start of an at-bat, the pitcher must declare his throwing arm, then the hitter can pick his side, with each man able to switch once. Phew.
There's been only one other such pitcher in the past century: Greg Harris, who threw one scoreless inning for the Expos, in 1995. More than 120 years ago, three guys are believed to have done it occasionally. The best was Tony Mullane, who stood on the mound with no glove and the ball cradled in both hands so nobody would know which way he was going to pitch until his windup. I've had bosses like that.
Bottom Line: Baseball took another hit today with Manny's suspension, but this is some really cool and positive news... other than Venditte being a Yankee.
With the second worst team ERA in baseball (5.77) the Yankees may want to think about calling this kid up sooner rather than later...
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