Switch-pitcher Venditte hoping to find fit with Mariners

Ambidextrous 31-year-old called up Saturday, gives Seattle options

August 28th, 2016
Pat Venditte is 2-2 with a 4.58 ERA in 34 games from 2015-16 with the A's and Blue Jays. (Getty)

CHICAGO -- In case you're wondering, yeah, has times when his left arm isn't feeling the best. Or maybe the right. It can work either way, which is how life rolls when you're the only full-time ambidextrous pitcher in the Major Leagues since the late 1800s.

The easy joke is that the Mariners added three arms to their bullpen on Saturday when they called up rookie Dan Altavilla and the switch-pitching Venditte. Surely Venditte has heard all the one-liners by now, but for him, this is just life.

"I'm like any other pitcher," he said, which of course isn't exactly true. "There'll be certain days when one arm is there and the other isn't. Some days that's right-handed, some days it's left, and you have to find ways to get through.

"Just like anything, the majority of your outings are going to be: How do you find ways to get through them? There'll be certain days where you're on both ways. It's just a matter of working through it, but it's something I'm used to."

Being a switch-pitcher has both advantages and challenges, of course. One of the challenges already overcome was getting a glove that can be easily switched from one hand to the other. Venditte uses a six-fingered mitt that he slips seamlessly to either hand.

Venditte's dad, who worked with him on throwing with either arm since he was 3 years old, helped get him the unique glove when he was 7. Turns out, one had already been designed for Greg Harris, who pitched to two batters with his "other" arm in his final game in the Majors in 1995 to become the only other switch-pitcher in the modern era.

"I got my first one in 1992, so they'd already had the design for Greg and have just been making them for me ever since," Venditte said. "I've got a fair collection. It takes a while to get here, but they've been good to me and it's a couple-month turnaround usually for a glove to come over from the factory."

The 31-year-old wants to be more than just a unique story, of course. He's pitched 34 games in the Majors over the past two seasons for the A's and Blue Jays, and he'd love to win a regular spot in the Mariners' bullpen now after being acquired from Toronto in an August trade.

"He gives us a lot of options," manager Scott Servais said. "Pat is an interesting guy. I've actually known him a long time. He went to Creighton, and my uncle was the head coach there and I saw him pitch in college.

"He was a walk-on that came from nowhere, a self-made guy, a very good competitor who has made his way through the Minor Leagues. Coming out of our bullpen, he can face the tough lefties earlier in the game and also flip around and go right-handed."

The Mariners foresee Venditte being mostly a lefty specialist, which is somewhat ironic since he is a natural right-hander. But his left-handed sidearm delivery has proven effective and is the primary reason he's progressed as far as he has as a 20th-round Draft pick of the Yankees in 2008.

"I dropped down sidearm in college left-handed, and that's when I really started to see some results," he said. "My left-handed slider is a pitch I've relied on heavily, and it's gotten me to this point. It's just something that has clicked for me."

Said Servais: "Left-handed, it's not as much velocity, it's more breaking ball. Right-handed, he throws a little harder. But he does it with guile and know-how and competitiveness."