Ambidextrous Venditte hurls two shutout frames
BOSTON -- With two scoreless innings tucked in his pocket, capping a long-anticipated debut, the A's Pat Venditte became the first full-time switch-pitcher in the modern era of Major League Baseball on Friday night.
The A's selected the ambidextrous reliever from Triple-A Nashville earlier in the day, and he arrived at Fenway Park just after game time following a taxing travel day to work the seventh and eighth innings of a 4-2 loss to the Red Sox.
"It's been a crazy 24 hours, but well worth it," said Venditte, who was informed of his callup late Thursday.
"You play it over 1,000 times in your head how it's going to happen, and I don't really remember a whole lot," Venditte said of hearing the news. "Just a lot of emotions being able to tell my family and friends that the work was starting to pay off."
Venditte, who had his wife, parents and in-laws in the stands, began the seventh from the left side, inducing a groundout from Brock Holt. Venditte then turned around and threw with his right arm and allowed a single to Hanley Ramirez before getting an inning-ending double play ball from Mike Napoli.
The switch-pitcher faced the minimum in the eighth, striking out switch-hitter Blake Swihart, who was batting left-handed, with his right arm to end the frame.
"That was truly amazing tonight," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "To watch Venditte, it's a remarkable thing to see what one person's body is capable of doing. Even guys in the dugout were kind of marveling.
"It's clear he's able to get both lefties and righties with whatever arm he chooses. He's got quality stuff."
The A's took notice back in Spring Training, after signing Venditte to a Minor League deal in the offseason, with seven seasons in the Yankees' farm system behind him. He'll turn 30 this month.
"I think it's great for him, it's great for baseball and I think he's going to help us," said catcher Stephen Vogt. "I'm excited for him. Anytime a guy has been in the Minor Leagues for that long and hasn't made it up, when they get a chance, obviously, I love it."
Venditte logged a 1.36 ERA and held opponents to a .167 average in 17 appearances for Triple-A Nashville in advance of his promotion Friday, when the A's optioned struggling righty Dan Otero and transferred outfielder Coco Crisp (neck strain) to the 60-day disabled list.
"It's a little bit of a novelty and you're curious to see if this is functional, and all he did in Spring Training is perform for us," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "He was doing the same thing in Triple-A. He's here because of his performance. He deserves to be here."
In the same breath, Melvin can appreciate how unique he is.
"You can't even fathom how somebody can do that," Melvin said. "It's tough enough to perform at this level throwing from one side, let alone two."
Venditte is the first pitcher to throw with both arms in a game since Greg Harris -- a pitcher he idolized as a youngster -- accomplished the feat in 1995. Harris, a natural right-hander, recorded outs with his left and right arms for the Expos on Sept. 28, 1995.
Reached by phone Friday, Harris told MLB.com, "It's just so neat that [Venditte] is getting the opportunity to do it. He's a good kid and a smart kid and he's worked his tail off for this. He's earned it." More >
Venditte, who was taught by his father, Pat Venditte Sr., to throw from both sides at age 3, wears a special glove that has six fingers and room for his thumb on either side, and he typically pitches with whichever arm will allow him to have the same-side advantage against a given hitter.
When a switch-hitter steps to the plate, as Swihart did Friday, it's Venditte who must first declare which side he's pitching from, allowing the batter to choose thereafter -- a rule established in 2008 that's known as the "Pat Venditte Rule."
The Major League Rulebook spells out the rules for ambidextrous pitchers.
Rule 8.01 (f): 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.