Venditte pitching left-handed for the Oakland Athletics in 2015
|Toronto Blue Jays – No. 44|
June 30, 1985 |
|June 5, 2015, for the Oakland Athletics|
(through June 12, 2016)
|Earned run average||4.58|
Patrick Michael Venditte, Jr. (//; born June 30, 1985) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball (MLB). After attending Creighton University, Venditte was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2008. He signed with the Oakland Athletics as a free agent before the 2015 season, and made his MLB debut that year.
Venditte is a switch pitcher, capable of pitching proficiently with both arms. He is recognized as the only active professional pitcher who is able to do this. Venditte's rare ability to pitch with either arm required Minor League Baseball to create a rule for ambidextrous pitchers, known colloquially as the "Pat Venditte Rule". This rule essentially requires any ambidextrous pitcher to declare which hand he will use to pitch to a batter before the at-bat starts, and to throw with that hand through the entire at-bat (unless he is injured during the at-bat).
Pat Jr. was born on June 30, 1985 in Omaha, Nebraska, one of four children of Pat Sr. and Janet Venditte. Pat Sr. played college baseball as a catcher. Though his son is naturally right-handed, Pat Sr. trained his son to throw with both arms to give his son an edge in athletic competitions. Toward this end, the Venditte backyard included astroturf, a batting cage, a radar gun, and a pitching machine. In addition to training both arms from a young age, Pat Jr. practiced punting footballs with both legs to establish the leg motion needed when pitching with each arm.
Venditte used both arms when playing in Little League, which sometimes caused him to be confused for twins. Venditte attended Omaha Central High School. He had a 5–4 win–loss record during his senior year, earning All-Nebraska second-team honors.
Venditte joined the Creighton Bluejays in 2005 as a walk-on. Creighton head coach Ed Servais did not allow Venditte to pitch with both arms during his five appearances his freshman year, fearing the spectacle would become a "circus". Starting with his sophomore season, Venditte regularly used both arms in collegiate play; he posted a 3.02 earned run average (ERA) in 62 2⁄3 innings pitched. After the season, he played collegiate summer baseball for the Quincy Gems of the Central Illinois Collegiate League.
In his junior year, Venditte appeared in 36 of Creighton's 58 games before appearing in the 2007 NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. His opponents batting average (OBA) of .185 was the fourth-best in the nation, and he posted a 1.85 ERA. At one point during the season, Venditte had a streak of 43 2⁄3 scoreless innings. On May 28, 2007, Collegiate Baseball named Venditte the national player of the week.
For the season, Venditte earned first-team All-Conference honors for the Missouri Valley Conference and was named Most Valuable Player of the conference tournament, in which Creighton won its first conference championship. He was named to the All-American third team for the 2007 season. Venditte was also voted Midwest Region Pitcher of the Year by online pitching magazine InsidePitching.com. After the season, he played collegiate summer baseball for the Wisconsin Woodchucks in the Northwoods League. As the Woodchucks' closer, he had a 4–1 record, 9 saves, a 1.76 ERA, and a .154 opponents' batting average.
On June 8, 2007, the New York Yankees selected Venditte in the 45th round of the 2007 Major League Baseball draft with the 1,345th overall pick. Venditte was surprised by the pick, because he had told all major league scouts that he intended to return to Creighton for his senior year. The Yankees called him during the 30th round of the draft, asking him how much it would take to sign him, but Venditte refused to set a price. Ultimately, the Yankees were unable to sign Venditte before the August 15, 2007, signing deadline. Venditte said that he was not quite ready to turn professional and wanted to build velocity with his left arm and add another pitch with his right.
New York Yankees
His initial assignment was to the Staten Island Yankees of the Class-A Short-Season New York–Penn League. On June 19, 2008, in his first minor league appearance with Staten Island against the Brooklyn Cyclones, Venditte pitched a scoreless ninth inning for a Yankees win. Before Venditte faced the last Cyclone batter, Ralph Henriquez, a switch-hitter, upon choosing to bat left- or right-handed (with Venditte subsequently choosing to pitch with the same hand), Henriquez would then go to the other side of the plate (and adjust his shin guard—which is worn on the front leg when a batter takes his stance) to regain the advantage. After this had happened several times the teams appealed to the umpiring crew, which ruled that the batter must first select from which side of the plate he intended to hit, and that the pitcher would then be allowed to declare with which arm he would pitch (the Venditte Rule, adopted several weeks later by the umpires' association, would make the opposite determination and preserve the traditional right of a switch-hitter to choose an opposite-handed match-up). Venditte subsequently struck out Henriquez, who slammed his bat against the dirt, to end the game. A film of the incident received notoriety on the Internet and the tale was recounted in a number of places, including within the baseball compendium Rollie's Follies.
Venditte completed the 2008 season with 23 saves in 30 appearances with a 0.83 ERA. His performance earned him a spot on the New York–Penn League All-Star team and the Minor League Baseball Yearly Award for Best Short-Season Reliever.
For the 2009 season, he was assigned to the Charleston RiverDogs of the Class A South Atlantic League. He was promoted to the Tampa Yankees of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League on June 26, 2009. He finished the regular season with a 2.21 ERA and 2 saves in 21 appearances. In October, Venditte pitched for Águilas del Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Venditte pitched for the Yankees in a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves on March 30, 2010, giving up one earned run on two hits and a walk in 1 1⁄3 innings. He started the 2010 season in Tampa, posting a 1.73 ERA through 72 2⁄3 innings in 41 appearances. On August 31, 2010 Venditte was promoted to the Trenton Thunder of the Class-AA Eastern League.
Venditte pitched to a 3.41 ERA in 51 appearances with Trenton in 2011. Though Venditte was eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft during the 2011–12 offseason, the Yankees chose not to protect him. However, he was not chosen by any MLB team. During the 2011–12 offseason, Venditte pitched in the Mexican Pacific League.
Venditte was promoted to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees of the Class-AAA International League for Opening Day in 2012. He suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He spent most of the 2013 season rehabilitating his shoulder, while also pitching exclusively with his left arm. He pitched for the Italian national baseball team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and for Trenton in the 2013 postseason. He then pitched in the Mexican Pacific League over the winter, and struggled.
The Yankees did not invite Venditte to spring training in 2014. Though Venditte had excellent minor league numbers, he was not considered a top prospect because of his age and, scouts believed, underwhelming fastball velocity. He started the 2014 season with Trenton, but was called up again to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after a month, in which he pitched to a 0.82 ERA and 0.73 walks plus hits per inning pitched ratio in 22 innings. In his first outing after the promotion, he struck out all five batters that he faced, three throwing left-handed and two throwing right-handed.
After the 2014 season, Venditte became a free agent. During the offseason, he signed a minor league contract with the Oakland Athletics, receiving an invitation to spring training in 2015. Venditte began the 2015 season with the Nashville Sounds of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. He pitched to a 1.36 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 17 games for Nashville before he was promoted to the Athletics for his first major-league stint on June 5. He pitched two scoreless innings, and got his first strikeout in his major league debut. Venditte pitched in four games, not allowing a run in 5 2⁄3 innings pitched, before he strained his right shoulder and the Athletics placed Venditte on the disabled list on June 12. Venditte was reactivated by the A's on August 3, 2015 and optioned to AAA Nashville. He was recalled to the A's on August 15 and earned his first major league win on August 30.
Toronto Blue Jays
On October 19, 2015, Venditte was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays. He was assigned to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons to start the 2016 season, and was recalled by the Blue Jays on April 13 after Arnold León was designated for assignment. Venditte made his Blue Jays debut on April 13, 2016 against the New York Yankees, pitching one scoreless inning to finish a 7-2 Blue Jays win. On April 27, he was optioned back to Triple-A. Venditte was recalled on May 17, and sent back on May 25. On June 7, Venditte was recalled once again.
When using his right arm, Venditte used to deliver over the top and could throw a slider and curveball, as well as a fastball at around 85 miles per hour (137 km/h) that topped out at 87 miles per hour (140 km/h). His left-handed delivery is side-armed in which he throws a slider and a fastball that reaches the low-to-mid 80's. Following Venditte's 2012 surgery on his right shoulder, Gil Patterson worked with him on a right-handed sidearm delivery. Although the injury slowed his right arm, Venditte's delivery is now almost identical from either side, and observers have mistaken him for identical twins because he warms up one hand with the starting pitchers and the other with the relievers. Venditte is only ambidextrous when pitching; he cannot use his left hand for other tasks like swinging a golf club, writing, or eating.
Venditte generally pitches with his right arm against right-handed batters and left-handed against left-handed batters, which minimizes his opponent's advantage when strategically ordering batters in the line-up based on which side of the plate they hit from. Mizuno has custom-made six-fingered gloves for Venditte since the age of seven with a thumb-hole on each side, allowing him to easily switch back and forth. By splitting his pitches between his arms, he is able to pitch longer than traditional pitchers before becoming fatigued; ESPN in 2015 speculated that Venditte "has quite possibly thrown more baseballs than any other man his age in history because he's had twice as many arms with which to throw them".
The Pat Venditte Rule
Venditte's rare ambidextrous abilities prompted the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation (PBUC) to issue a new rule for dealing with ambidextrous pitchers, limiting the number of times that a switch-pitcher and switch-hitter can change sides during one at-bat. After consulting with a variety of sources, including the Major League Baseball Rules Committee, the PBUC issued its new guidelines on July 3, 2008. OBR Rule 8.01(f) currently reads:
- A pitcher must indicate visually to the umpire-in-chief, the batter and any runners the hand with which he intends to pitch, which may be done by wearing his glove on the other hand while touching the pitcher's plate. The pitcher is not permitted to pitch with the other hand until the batter is retired, the batter becomes a runner, the inning ends, the batter is substituted for by a pinch-hitter or the pitcher incurs an injury. In the event a pitcher switches pitching hands during an at-bat because he has suffered an injury, the pitcher may not, for the remainder of the game, pitch with the hand from which he has switched. The pitcher shall not be given the opportunity to throw any preparatory pitches after switching pitching hands. Any change of pitching hands must be indicated clearly to the umpire-in-chief.
Both NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) have adopted similar rules. NCAA rule 9-2k and NFHS rule 6–1–1.
Venditte is married to Erin, whom he met while they were both enrolled at Creighton. They reside in Omaha during the offseason.
- Greg A. Harris, the only other "switch-pitcher" in Major League Baseball's modern era. Harris enjoyed a 15-year career as a right-handed pitcher and threw left-handed to two batters in a single MLB game.
- Tony Mullane, a dead-ball-era pitcher who routinely switch-pitched
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