Marte's newest first: facing a switch pitcher
SEATTLE -- Ketel Marte has dealt with a lot of new things in his first month in the big leagues, but nothing could prepare him for something few hitters have ever faced in Major League history.
When Marte stepped to the plate in the seventh inning of Monday's 11-5 loss to the A's, home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez asked Oakland reliever Pat Venditte which hand he wanted to throw with to the switch-hitting rookie.
As MLB's first switch-pitcher since Montreal's Greg Harris threw one inning in 1995 and just the second since 1894, Venditte signaled he'd throw with his right hand, which sent Marte scurrying back to the dugout for a quick equipment change.
"I saw when he first went to the mound, he threw left-handed," Marte said. "Then when he faced [Mike] Zunino, he threw right-handed. I was like, 'I don't know. What's going on here?' I was in the on-deck circle with my shin guards and helmet for the right side. The umpire asked him, 'How are you going to throw, lefty or righty?' And he said, 'Right.' I had to make the change real quick."
Marte wound up grounding out to second against Venditte, who has a 2.13 ERA in 10 relief appearances since being called up this year. Marte thus became one of a handful of switch-hitters who've faced the unique reliever, who uses a six-fingered glove he can rotate to either hand.
MLB rules require a switch-pitcher to declare which hand he's going to throw with before the at-bat, so the pitcher and hitter don't continue maneuvering back and forth.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he doesn't know yet whether Marte is better from the left or right side. He's been solid both ways to date, batting .311 in 21 games after Monday's 3-for-4 outing. He's hit .355 with one double in 31 at-bats from the left side and .279 with five doubles in 43 at-bats from the right.
"I think I have more power right-handed," said the 21-year-old, a natural right-hander who started switching as a 16-year-old in the Dominican. "I can hit a homer more easy right-handed. Left-handed I can put the ball in play more easily."
"He seems to handle the bat pretty good from both sides," said McClendon, who has installed the youngster as his leadoff hitter and is letting him play every day.
Marte was penciled in at shortstop for the 16th time in the past 18 games for Tuesday's game, with fellow shortstop Brad Miller in left field. Marte has also played four games at second base and twice in center field since his promotion on July 31, and McClendon is leaving those doors open, though Miller clearly has moved back into more of an outfield and utility role while Marte gets a long look at short.
"I think one of the things that happened is we faced a lot of left-handed starters," McClendon said. "We ran into five or six of them in a row. That's why you saw so much of him at short. I think Brad will still play some short, Marte will play some center. You may see Brad in center, I don't know."
• Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush is having his medical tests sent to New York for a second opinion from Mets team physician David Altchek, one of the top orthopedic specialists in the country, before determining a course of action with the sore left shoulder that has sidelined him since July 8.
• McClendon remains noncommittal on when Roenis Elias might move back into the rotation. But the Mariners skipper said Elias would be available again in the bullpen Tuesday after pitching a scoreless inning Monday in his first relief appearance after 42 starts in the Majors.