Friday night at Fenway Park Pat Venditte of the Oakland Athletics took the mound for his Major League debut. That’s a big moment for any professional baseball player.
For Venditte, the moment had been a long time coming. For Major League Baseball, it was a historic event. Venditte became the first full-time switch-pitcher in the modern era of the game.
On September 28 1995, Greg Harris of the Montreal Expos became the first switch-pitcher to use both arms in a single game. Prior to then he had pitched right-handed, as he was a natural righty. In the ninth inning of that game against the Cincinnati Reds, Harris retired Reggie Sanders batting right-handed. He then switched to using his left hand to face left-handed hitters Hal Morris and Ed Taubensee. Harris walked Morris but got Taubensee to ground out. He then returned to using his right hand to end the inning by retiring Bret Boone.
Still, on the whole Harris was a right-hander. Pat Venditte on the other hand, consistently switches arms as needed and is considered a full-time switch-pitcher, a first in MLB.
Venditte who began learning to throw from both sides at a very young age, was also taught to punt footballs with both legs by his father. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2007 but did not sign instead choosing to return to college at Creighton University for his senior year.
He was again drafted by the Yankees in the 20th round of the 2008 draft. He’s spent seven seasons in the Yankees farm system, also playing at times in the Mexican Pacific League over the winter and for the Italian team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
In July 2008 the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation (PBUC) came up with a rule, Rule 8.01 (f), for ambidextrous pitchers that is known most commonly as the “Pat Venditte Rule.”
In 2014 Venditte signed as a minor league free agent with the Oakland A’s and received an invite to spring training. He did not make the 40-man roster and has spent the last two months pitching for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds.
He was called up by the A’s on Friday, who had to make two corresponding moves to get Venditte on the 25-man active roster. Center fielder Coco Crisp, already on the 15-day disabled list, was moved to the 60-day disabled to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Reliever Dan Otero, who’s spent three successful seasons with Oakland, had been struggling mightily this season and was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Venditte on the 25-man roster.
For 29-year-old Venditte this day had been years in the making. His family was already in Boston before his plane even landed, just half an hour prior to game time.
Venditte made his major league debut in the seventh inning. Pitching left-handed Venditte got Brock Holt to ground out. He then switched to using his right arm to face Hanley Ramirez and Mike Napoli. Ramirez singled to left but Venditte induced a ground ball double play when facing Napoli, escaping the inning unscathed.
In the eighth inning Venditte was on the mound again, pitching right-handed this time as he was going to be pitching to two right-handers and a switch hitter. He got Xander Bogaerts to ground out to short, Mookie Betts to fly out to right and got his first big league strikeout getting rookie Blake Swihart to strike out swinging on a 88 mph cutter.
Venditte now has two scoreless big league innings under his belt with who knows how many more to come. Even though the A’s launched a ninth inning comeback attempt, bring the go-ahead run to the plate and yet still lost by a score of 4-2, every one was talking about Venditte after the game.
“It’s a little bit of a novelty and you’re curious to see if this is functional, and all he did in Spring Training is perform for us. He was doing the same thing in Triple-A. He’s here because of his performance. He deserves to be here.”.
“You can’t even fathom how somebody can do that. It’s tough enough to perform at this level throwing from one side, let alone two.”
“That was truly amazing tonight. To watch Venditte, it’s a remarkable thing to see what one person’s body is capable of doing. Even guys in the dugout were kind of marveling. It’s clear he’s able to get both lefties and righties with whatever arm he chooses. He’s got quality stuff.”
His teammates were excited for him too! Injured A’s closer Sean Doolittle tweeted Venditte a special congratulations note,
Venditte is in fact a marvel to watch. I saw him pitch this year in Arizona during spring training. If you ever have a chance to get to a game where he might be pitching, the sheer brilliance of watching someone throw quality pitches with both arms is truly amazing to witness.