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Tampa Bay Yankees' Pat Venditte can pitch right- and left-handed

TAMPA — As a right-hander, Pat Venditte can throw a fastball more than 90 mph.

As a left-hander, Pat Venditte can throw a changeup and slider from an assortment of angles.

Righty-lefty.

Lefty-righty.

All from the same pitcher.

Venditte, a reliever recently promoted to the New York Yankees' Florida State League affiliate, is the only ambidextrous pitcher in pro baseball.

"Having a guy who can throw with both arms is not something you see every day," Tampa Yankees manager Luis Sojo said. "It definitely gives him a little edge."

Venditte's unique ability has had people scrambling for the record books and rule books.

He is the first "switch-pitcher" to appear in a pro game since Greg Harris of the Expos in his final season in 1995, and that was considered more of a stunt. Three pitched both ways during the late 1880s.

Venditte, 24, forced the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp. to create a rule for ambidextrous pitchers when he squared off with a switch-hitter in a bizarre cat-and-mouse sequence on June 19, 2008, that became a YouTube sensation.

Venditte, pitching for short-season Class A Staten Island, kept switching glove hands. (A custom-made glove allows him to wear it on his left or right hand.) And Brooklyn's Ralph Henriquez kept switching sides of the plate to create the more favorable matchup. (Eventually, both went righty, and Henriquez struck out to end the game.)

Now the pitcher must declare which arm he will use before an at-bat.

"I don't think people look at me in awe or anything like that," Venditte said. "The only instance that really stands out is that game … last year."

At age 3 growing up in Omaha, Neb., Venditte's father, Pat Sr., started teaching his son to throw right- and left-handed. Soon after, Venditte could write and eat both ways. To develop proper footwork, Venditte's dad had him learn how to punt and kick a football both ways.

"Pat started off throwing from the right side," his father said. "Then I thought why not have him throw from the left side, too. There really was no difference. …

"The main thing after that was repetition. He was homeschooled, and it just became a natural part of growing up. He wasn't ridiculed by other kids or dissuaded. There was no one to contradict what he was doing. He just kept pushing forward."

Venditte isn't just an oddity. As a junior at Creighton in 2007, he pitched 422/3 consecutive scoreless innings and finished 8-2 with a 1.88 ERA. His opponents' .185 batting average was fourth-best in the nation.

He was drafted twice by the Yankees, in the 45th round in 2007 and 20th round in 2008.

Venditte had 23 saves in 30 appearances for Staten Island last season. He started this season at Charleston (low Class A) before the promotion to Tampa.

"(Pat) really does his homework and is a hard worker who wants to get better," Sojo said.

Venditte, who usually is called on to face switch-hitters, scours the scouting reports.

"I usually study about three or more switch-hitters from each team and try to determine their weakness facing left-handers or right-handers," Venditte said. "I try to create a righty-righty or lefty-lefty matchup."

Because of his ability to throw both ways, Venditte's arm(s) do not fatigue as quickly as others'. So he, theoretically, can make more appearances. That doesn't help in the minors, where relievers must have two days' rest between appearances. But it could be a bonus in the majors.

"I think he has what it takes," Sojo said. "The big test will be how he responds the rest of the season here and in winter ball. His versatility is something that a lot of teams would love to have."

fast facts

Venditte's pro stats

YearLevelRecSvsERAIPHBBK Opp BA

2009High Class A1-021.803029741.252

2009Low Class A2-2201.47302/324240.212

2008SS Class A1-0230.83322/3131042.117

Tampa Bay Yankees' Pat Venditte can pitch right- and left-handed 08/28/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 28, 2009 10:22pm]
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