BOSTON — The Oakland Athletics on Friday called up a 29-year-old reliever named Pat Venditte.
Why is that something you should care about? Well, Venditte isn’t your ordinary pitcher.
If he sees game action for the A’s, who begin a weekend series with the Boston Red Sox on Friday, Venditte will be the first ambidextrous pitcher to appear in a major league game since Greg Harris did so for the Montreal Expos in 1995.
That’s right: Venditte is a bona fide switch-pitcher. He wears a modified glove, has the ability to deal with either arm and in the past has morphed from left-hander to right-hander in the middle of an at-bat — which caused a great deal of confusion during a 2008 minor league appearance.
That’s no longer allowed, but Venditte still is permitted to switch arms between hitters or if the opposing team sends up a pinch hitter mid-at-bat. Also, in the case of switch-hitters, Venditte first must indicate which arm he is going to throw with, and the batter may then act accordingly.
Red Sox manager John Farrell, who, coincidentally, is a former teammate of Harris’, explained the rule — nicknamed the “Venditte Rule” — as best he could.
“Well, he’s going to have the final decision to get the matchup that he prefers,” Farrell said before Friday’s game. “We know he’s got the ability to make a decision one time. In other words, if he’s throwing left-handed against a left-hander and we pinch-hit, he’s got the ability to go back to the other side of the plate. I only have experience with a former teammate in Greg Harris, (but) it’s extremely unique. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Venditte’s journey to the major leagues has been a lengthy one. A 20th-round draft pick of the New York Yankees in 2008, he has bounced up and down the minors ever since, spending seven seasons in the Yankees’ organization before signing with Oakland as a free agent this past offseason.
After posting a 1.36 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 17 relief appearances for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, Venditte was given his chance. He’ll spend the weekend in Fenway Park’s visiting bullpen, waiting for the opportunity to bring his ambidextrous act to the majors for the first time.
“It was only in spring training one year (that I saw Harris pitch with both arms), but you marveled at it,” Farrell said. “I had enough (trouble) throwing with one arm, let alone a guy throwing with two. It’s unique, and Venditte is even that much more unique because of his arm slots. You watch side-by-side pitches, and it’s almost a mirror image on the other side of the body.
“I think any time a unique thing comes along in a game which is so — the game is so traditional itself, that when you see this, it draws a lot of attention to it. (It’s) kind of a cool thing.”
Thumbnail photo via Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports Images