Switch pitcher

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In baseball, a switch-pitcher is an ambidextrous pitcher who is able to pitch with both the right and left hand from the pitcher's mound.

Four 19th-century pitchers are known to have thrown with both hands: Tony Mullane in 1882 and in 1893, Elton Chamberlain in 1888, Larry Corcoran in 1884, and George Wheeler.[1]

Greg A. Harris is the only major league pitcher in the modern era to pitch with both his left and his right arm. A natural righty, by 1986 he could throw well enough left-handed that he felt capable of pitching with either arm in a game. Harris did not throw lefty in a regular-season game until September 28, 1995, the penultimate game of his career. Against the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning, Harris (then a member of the Montreal Expos) retired Reggie Sanders pitching right-handed, then switched to his left hand for the next two hitters, Hal Morris and Ed Taubensee, who both batted left-handed. Harris walked Morris but got Taubensee to ground out. He then went back to his right hand to retire Bret Boone to end the inning.[2]

Pat Venditte, who played college baseball for the Creighton Bluejays, regularly pitches with both arms.[3] Venditte was drafted by the New York Yankees, and now plays for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Yankees' AAA affiliate. When he opposed switch hitter Ralph Henriquez, Venditte switched his modified glove to his left arm. (Hitters traditionally derive advantages from batting from the opposite side of the plate to the pitcher's throwing arm.) Henriquez then switched to batting left-handed, and a series of changes continued for several minutes. This prompted the PBUC (Professional Baseball Umpires Corporation) to issue rules about switch-pitching: switch-pitchers must choose which way they will begin pitching before they start. Then, batters will select with which hand they will bat. The batter and the pitcher are each allowed one switch during the plate appearance, after the first pitch is thrown.[4]

Right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish throws with his left hand when training. He does this to keep both arms strong and balanced.[5] He does not pitch left-handed during a game, however.

In 2003, the Atlanta Braves drafted switch pitcher Brandon Berdoll of Temple (Texas) Junior College in the 27th round. He never made it to the major leagues.

In the collegiate ranks, Matt Brunnig (Harvard class of 2006-07) was able to pitch over 85 mph left-handed and over 90 mph right-handed, but only pitched with both arms in the same game a few times. In college he pitched more from the right side as a starter and pitched some relief as a lefty although he did start one game left-handed. When playing the outfield after a start he would typically play the position with the other arm to rest the arm he just pitched with.[6]

Switch-throwers are commonly taught to switch-throw at a young age. For instance, Venditte's father trained him in ambidextrous throwing from the age of three and Brunnig's father (a chiropractor) taught him from age five.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ George Wheeler's page at Baseball Reference
  2. ^ DeMarco, Tony (March 27, 2007). "Expert: Bonds Might Not Hold Record Long". Retrieved June 12, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b Schwarz, Alan (April 6, 2007). "Throwing Batters Curves Before Throwing a Pitch". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Hill, Benjamin (July 2, 2008). "Venditte's versatility prompts new rule". Major League Baseball. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  5. ^ Grant, Evan (February 22, 2012). "See Rangers' righty Yu Darvish throw left-handed in practice". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2012-04-19. 
  6. ^ http://www.sptimes.com/2003/07/08/Sports/No_gimmick__Floridian.shtml

Further reading[edit]

  • The Associated Press. "Ambidextrous pitcher stars at Creighton". MSNBC, May 3, 2006. Accessed 12 June 2007.
  • German, Norman. Switch-Pitchers. St. Augustine, Florida: BluewaterPress LLC, 2010. In this novel Ernest Hemingway smuggles twin Cuban pitchers to the U.S. for a shot at major league fame. A dugout full of rats reveals one to be a switch-pitcher when he throws at the rats equally well either right- or left-handed.
  • Holtzman, Jerome. "A lesson in switch-pitching". MajorLeagueBaseball.com via the Internet Archive, March 3, 2000. Accessed 12 June 2007.