PEORIA, Ariz. -- In his head, there are two Pat Vendittes.When the Mariners reliever -- the lone switch-pitcher in the Majors -- takes the mound and peers out from behind his custom six-finger glove, each at-bat is an adventure.Every batter may see something new, with a different motion and delivery
PEORIA, Ariz. -- In his head, there are two Pat Vendittes.
When the Mariners reliever -- the lone switch-pitcher in the Majors -- takes the mound and peers out from behind his custom six-finger glove, each at-bat is an adventure.
Every batter may see something new, with a different motion and delivery for each arm aimed at deriving the best possible matchup for the pitcher. Then, Venditte calculates and decides the correct arm angle and release point for that arm, for that pitch.
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"It's like I'm two different pitchers," Venditte said.
It's a craft Venditte has worked his entire life to perfect. Venditte's father encouraged him to start throwing with his left arm in addition to his right from a young age. If there can be switch-hitters, his father reasoned, why not a switch-pitcher?
The unique talent has been met by many reactions, Venditte said. When he was in the seventh grade, an opposing parent approached his father after a game to congratulate his twin sons on a well-pitched game.
And with each new stop in his career, Venditte fields questions from curious teammates about his mechanics, his glove and his approach to such a rare feat.
That was the case in 2014, when Venditte first broke into the big leagues with the Oakland Athletics. Just like in his previous Minor League stops in Double-A and Triple-A, hordes of media were there the first two or three days to track his accomplishment.
Even now, after bouncing from Oakland to Toronto and finding himself battling for a roster spot with Seattle in Spring Training, Venditte's switch-pitching remains a novelty.
Venditte is banking on that. Having something fresh that hitters don't quite recognize can make the difference for a pitcher, especially when he can have a lefty-lefty or righty-righty matchup whenever he wants.
Venditte knows that perfect mechanics from both sides are necessary for him to have success.
"There's a lot of mental thought and process as I go into this, and this is something I'm still learning as I get older and understanding my brain a little bit better," Venditte said. "Certain days, it's easy and you've got both arms going. But others, you're just like any other pitcher. One arm may be on and the other one might not be. You have to find those quick little adjustments."
Venditte is not going to blow hitters away. His average fastball velocity in 2016 hovered around 85 mph. The only non-knuckleballers with more than 20 innings of work whose average fastball velocity was less than 85 mph last season were Jered Weaver and Brent Suter, according to FanGraphs.
Venditte may soon have company joining him on the list of switch-pitchers to reach the big leagues.
The Cleveland Indians made Ryan Perez the second active switch-pitcher in professional baseball when they selected him in the 12th round in the 2015 Draft, though his usage of both arms differs. Perez can hit over 90 mph with each arm -- something Venditte can't do with either arm -- and he often uses his left arm as a starter and right arm to serve as a closer.
Don't expect a flood of switch-pitchers to crash MLB any time soon, though.
"It's tough. It takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of things to go right," Venditte said. "To say it would be commonplace is little bit of a stretch, because I've been doing this for nine years professionally. And you look down in the Minor Leagues, and there's not like this new wave of switch-pitchers coming through."
Fabian Ardaya is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.