March 30, 2010
Hey look, Stewies! Both hands!
Now that Pat Venditte has taken the mound in a Yankees uniform, I think it's safe to say we've seen everything there is to see this spring training.
Yup, might as well pack up the kids, start the station wagon and head for home because how else are we going to top a pitcher making an ambidextrous appearance while wearing a specially-designed glove with six finger slots so he can wear in on either hand?
We're probably not, which is why all camps should have shut down after Venditte, the Yankees' young switch pitcher, left Tuesday's game against the Braves after giving up one run, two hits and a walk against seven batters in 1.1 innings of work in Orlando.
And here you thought Mickey Mouse was the most versatile character in the Magic Kingdom.
That Venditte goes both ways with his arms and is a one-of-a-kind pitcher for this generation doesn't exactly qualify as a breaking story. The 24-year-old made plenty of headlines when the Yankees drafted him out of Creighton in 2008 and his arrival in the pro ranks caused the Professional Baseball Umpires Corporation to create a rule crafted especially for him. Before each batter, Venditte must visually signal to the umpire and batter which arm he intends to exclusively use during that at-bat.
The reason that Venditte is on your browser today is because Tuesday marked the first time he wore the Yankees' big league uniform against another major league team. After eight warmup pitches — four with each arm — he relieved CC Sabathia(notes) with two outs in the fifth, pitching righty to the righthanded Yunel Escobar(notes) and ending the inning on a groundout to third.
The real action didn't start until the top of the sixth, when Venditte pitched righthanded against righty Matt Diaz(notes) (single), lefty against leftthanded Nate McLouth(notes) (sac bunt) and righty against righty Clint Sammons(notes) (walk). Things got even more interesting later in the inning when he declared righty against switch-hitter Brooks Conrad(notes), who opted to bat lefty but ended up grounding out to end Venditte's day anyway.
The outing created some excitement in the stands, but also some confusion in the Yankees dugout, where Sabathia displayed an unfamiliarity with the Yankees' unique farmhand.
When he came out of he game, Sabathia saw a left-handed pitcher coming in from the bullpen. Then he saw a right-handed pitcher on the mound.
"I was like, maybe that guy got hurt," Sabathia said.
Good thing the Yanks aren't paying CC for his memory, huh?
In case you were wondering, the only ambidextrous pitcher to throw with both arms in a modern era regular season game was Montreal's Greg Harris, who pitched righty against Reggie Sanders(notes) and lefty against Hal Morris against Cincinnati on Sept. 28, 1995. Five different ambidextrous pitchers threw for teams in the 19th century.
Venditte still has a ways to go before he permanently etches his name into the major league record book with those six guys. He pitched well in A and A+ ball in 2009 and could climb to the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees' AA affiliate, this season. Because many baseball people can't see past the novelty of "a two-armed pitcher," he'll face an extra hurdle of prejudice.
"It's my job to go out there and prove that I can pitch," Venditte told reporters after his one-day outing, which came because manager Joe Girardi was curious to see how he'd do. "People are going to have their doubts when they hear something like this, and I've got to prove that I can do it."
But so long as Venditte can develop his stuff — and he thinks he has to continue pitching with both arms because neither is overpowering enough on its own — it's hard to imagine a big league manager not wanting the benefit of a relief pitcher who doesn't have to be burned up because of simple lefty-righty matchups.
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