The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Switch-Pitcher Pat Venditte in Rare Company

On my annual baseball trip to major-league games a few weeks ago, I got a chance to see a once-in-a-lifetime novelty in a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.  Pat Venditte, a switch-pitcher appeared in the game for the Dodgers.  His uniqueness is that he is ambidextrous and he threw pitches with both hands in the game.

Switch-hitting batters are very common in baseball.  Some of the best players in history have been players who batted from both sides of the plate.  Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, and Chipper Jones come to mind pretty quickly, but there are countless others.  In today’s game with so many teams using up to five or six relief pitchers in a game, having switch-hitters in the lineup is an effective weapon to combat the use of lefty-righty matchups by opposing managers.

However, not so common are switch-pitchers.  In fact, they are among the rarest of players in the long-history of the game.  Only Greg Harris has accomplished this feat in a modern-day major-league game in 1986 with the San Diego Padres, but he only threw to a handful of batters with each hand in his only ambidextrous appearance.  Supposedly, pitchers Tony Mullane, Elton Chamberlain, and Larry Corcoran also did it in big-league games before 1900, but I suspect their situations might have been just exaggerated stories handed down by word of mouth over the years.

Venditte is a legitimate ambidextrous pitcher though.  He has spent his entire professional career throwing with both hands.  In the game I attended, he faced six batters in his relief outing in the sixth and seventh innings.  He gave up a run on three hits in his 2/3 inning pitched, as the Dodgers defeated the Braves, 7-3.  He was able to switch hands a couple of time during his appearance.  He has a specially-made glove that allows him to use it on either hand.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says he views Venditte as being two pitchers in one, as he works out of the bullpen.  Similar to the use of switch-hitters in the batting lineup, Roberts has additional options with Venditte when navigating through opponents’ lineups with his relief staff.  “The thing that stands out about Patrick is the ability to get a bad swing,” Roberts said.  “That translates into guys being uncomfortable and not seeing him well, there’s a little funk in there, and soft contact.”

Venditte was a non-roster invitee with the Dodgers during spring training this year, when he demonstrated he could still get batters out.  He earned a job with the big-league Dodgers in mid-May after a solid start with their Triple-A affiliate Oklahoma City, where he posted a 1.53 ERA.

The 33-year-old Venditte says he starting throwing with both arms when he was three years old.  A natural right-hander, his father encouraged him to pitch from both sides of the mound.  However, all during his path through amateur baseball, he had to prove to his coaches he could be effective with both hands.

Venditte gained national attention when he was selected by the New York Yankees in the 20th round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.  He spent seven seasons in the Yankees organization, reaching the Triple-A level briefly before being granted free agency after the 2014 season.

The Oakland A’s signed him for the 2015 season, and he finally made his major-league debut on June 5 of that year.  He appeared in 26 games for the season, compiling a 2-2 record and 4.40 ERA.

He played parts of the 2016 season with Toronto and Seattle, although he recorded only 15 appearances between them.  He had a credible season with Philadelphia’s Triple-A club in 2017, posting a 9-5 record and 3.36 ERA in 52 relief appearances.

Shortly after his appearance against the Braves on June 8, Venditte was optioned back to Oklahoma City to make room for a needed position player on the Dodgers roster.  But chances are good that he will get a return visit with the big-league club once the long season takes its toll on the pitching staff.

On Saturday there was another unique display of dexterity by Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Vince Velasquez.  He received a blow to his throwing arm from a hard-hit line drive from a Washington Nationals batter.  Unable to use his right arm, Velasquez had the presence of mind to quickly pick up the ball with his left-hand and throw the runner out at first base.  Although not in the same category of Venditte’s capability, the play was impressive nonetheless.

For all my Mississippi Delta blog readers, you will be interested to know that Shaw native Boo Ferriss, Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer, was ambidextrous, although he never did pitch in a major-league game with both hands.  However, he did amaze sportswriters of his day by frequently playing first base left-handed during Red Sox batting practices.  A natural right-hander, Ferriss didn’t need to pitch left-handed, as he compiled 51 career wins against only 18 losses before he injured his arm in mid-1948, effectively ending his career.

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