Fans at Fifth Third Field on Thursday may not have realized they were in for a unique occurrence when Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pitcher Pat Venditte trotted in from the bullpen.
Venditte can throw effectively with both arms, meaning he threw left-handed against left-handed hitters and right-handed against right-handed hitters. When he faced Toledo’s Trevor Crowe, a switch-hitter, Venditte opted to pitch as a southpaw.
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“I’ll face him from the left side because his splits left-handed are better than right-handed,” Venditte said. “Every time we start a series, I have to figure out who the switch-hitters are on the other team, then figure out how I’m going to attack them.”
As the only ambidextrous pitcher in professional baseball, Venditte even caused a unique rule to be created in 2008. The rule says that a switch-pitcher such as Venditte must decide which arm he will use to throw before a switch-hitter decides which batter’s box he will enter.
The 28-year-old native of Omaha, Neb., hopes to be viewed as less of a novelty act and more of an actual Triple-A pitcher.
“I’m sure I could be viewed as a sideshow, and it’s my job to show people that it’s not,” Venditte said. “If I do my job and throw strikes, then I’m doing that.”
Venditte said his father starting working with him on throwing with both arms when he was just three years old.
“I’m a natural right-hander, but he wanted me to be a switch-pitcher,” Venditte said. “He thought that since there are switch-hitters, there also could be switch-pitchers.”
Venditte uses a unique glove that has a thumb on each side bracketing four fingers, allowing him to wear it on either hand while pitching.
He does not throw hard by Triple-A standards: Thursday his fastball topped out at 85 miles per hour right-handed and 84 left-handed.
But he also was able to hold the Mud Hens scoreless in the fourth and fifth before running into trouble in the sixth, allowing up three hits and a walk that produced three runs.
Venditte’s final line showed three hits and a walk allowed but also three strikeouts while pitching right-handed, with two hits and one whiff left-handed as he got four outs each way.
Venditte was saddled with the loss Thursday, dropping his season’s record to 1-2. He now has a 4.58 ERA after allowing 21 hits and five walks in 17 2/3 innings while fanning 17.
Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish certainly does not view Venditte as a novelty act.
“I would think having a guy like that in the bullpen would be a valuable guy,” Parrish said. “When you bring him in, it doesn’t matter if the lineup is [right-handed or left-handed]. He can adjust.”
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Patrick Venditte pitched as both a lefty and a righty in the same inning against the Mud Hens. BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT