TRENTON, NJ (CBS) – In the world of minor league baseball, you are liable to see just about anything. Teams utilize any kind of promotion or gimmick to draw attention to their respective squad. But there may be nothing as fascinating this season as the story emerging in the Double-A Trenton Thunder bullpen. And it’s anything but a gimmick.
Pat Venditte was a 20th round draft pick of the Yankees back in 2008, out of Creighton. Now 26-years-old, Venditte is one of the top relievers for their Double-A team, the Thunder. And he is ambidextrous, having become an effective reliever with both his left and right arms.
“I was three-years-old when my dad started working with me to pitch with both hands and it’s just been a work in progress ever since,” Venditte says.
Listen to Matt Leon’s interview with Pat Venditte in this KYW SportsPod…
A natural right-hander, Venditte has pitched in 41 games this season, compiling a 2.82 ERA. In 73 1/3 innings, he has allowed just 61 hits while striking out 71. This success is nothing new. In four pro seasons, he has compiled a 2.03 ERA.
While he has thrown with both arms since childhood, he says it was at Creighton that the ability really started to be refined, “Freshman year of college, I pitched pretty much strictly right-handed, the left hand hadn’t really developed. Then my pitching coach during my sophomore year dropped me down to the sidearm angle that I’m at now (left-handed), and that’s really when I was able to find success and I was able to pitch at the collegiate level. There were definitely trying times, like anything you do, there’s going to be some bumps and I’ve had my bumps along the way, but its been pretty constant.”
Thunder manager Tony Franklin breaks down Venditte’s stuff from each side of the mound, “I think his right side is a little bit stronger from his left. His breaking balls are a little bit different from both sides. He throws a little bit more of a cutter from the right side for his breaking ball, his left side breaking pitch is more of a sweeping type of curve.”
A special talent requires special equipment, and there is no more important piece of equipment for Venditte than his glove (pictured, right), “It’s a six finger glove made by Mizuno,” he says. “There are two thumbs and then the pocket is in the middle. It’s a little bigger than most gloves, but it’s all I’ve know since I was seven years old, so to me it’s a normal glove.”
So having an ambidextrous hurler is incredibly unusual, as you can imagine, and it presents unusual situations. Like how does it work when a switch-hitter comes to the plate? One has visions of Venditte switching that glove from his left to his right hand countless times as the batter switches back and forth from the left and right batters box. Venditte says the procedure for handling switch-hitters actually starts before the game, when he studies to determine which side of the plate is the batter’s weakest. Then once the moment arrives in-game, there is a procedure in place – call it the “Venditte rule,” “Once I see a switch-hitter coming, I have to declare which way I’m going to pitch. So they wait for me to declare which way I’m going to pitch and they go into the opposite box. Once that happens, neither of us are allowed to switch.”
Having two arms to warm up also leads to specialized routine as far as getting ready in the pen, “If there is a group of lefties coming up and I’m coming in to face a lefty, then I’ll get the left one hot first. If it’s just a normal situation, I’ll go righty first, because it takes a little bit longer to get loose and I only need probably four or five throws to get loose lefty and then not very many pitches from the left side to get ready to go into the game. It’s just a different angle and it seems it’s a lot easier to get loose from the sidearm slot.”
Venditte has had enough success to start being listed among the Yankees top prospects. And he has a fan in his manager, “I think it’s a pretty good weapon to have,” Franklin says. “I’d like to have a couple of more weapons like that.”
Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060