Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! You are about to bare witness to a daring act of rarity and excitement guaranteed to delight and impress. An ability so unmistakably scarce, that few have attempted and even less have been successful. Without further ado the Oakland Athletics present the duplicitous hurler Pat Venditte.
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Cue the crowd noise and frenzied cuts of hot, sweaty double-barrelled Venditte action from the mound.
Now let’s come back to reality. Deep within the shadows of the Billy Butler deal, the Athletics reached an additional agreement on a Minor League contract with an invitation to spring training with noted baseball novelty Pat Venditte. A curious specimen, the 29-year old has the distinction of being the only switch-pitcher in professional baseball.
Finding success amid the cameras and whispers, the former Yankee farmhand has embarked on an injury-hampered but public rise through the ranks of minor league baseball.
Primarily serving as reliever during his seven seasons in New York’s organization, Venditte has plied his trade on the field utilizing his distinct talent to gain a platoon advantage over hitters on both sides of the plate. Against lefties, the 29-year old drops down to confound hitters with a mid-80’s fastball and sharp slider combination, while combating their right-handed counterparts from an even lower release point with higher velocity to accompany the slider. Mixing in a change-up for good measure, Venditte held left-handed batters to a .206/.278/.258 mark and righties to a .230/.276/.352 line in 78 1/3 innings pitched between Double and Triple-A.
Blessed with ability to pitched multiple innings at a time, the 29-year old showcased excellent control by striking out 10.3 batters per 9 innings against only 2.4 walks and keeping the ball in the yard. Functioning as a veritable pitching Swiss Army Knife, the Nebraska native will look to make the jump where he could conceivably fill any role necessary in an evolving 2015 bullpen in Oakland. With Sean Doolittle entrenched in the closer role, questions run aplenty over the remaining pecking order of relief corps in light of the inevitable departure of set-up man Luke Gregerson. While Dan Otero and Fernando Abad appear to be sure bets to return to their familiar roles in ’15, Oakland could very well decide that one Ryan Cook is in fact “Too Many Cooks” as far they’re concerned creating an opportunity for Venditte to earn a spot courtesy of a strong spring training.
Although Venditte’s quest to transfer his title of “The Most Interesting Man in Minor League Baseball” to the majors may be a work in progress, his legacy has in many ways already been cemented thanks to the official “Pat Venditte Rule” passed after a contentious altercation with a switch-hitter a few years back. The rule stipulates that the pitcher must indicate visually to the umpire, batter and runners which hand he’s going to pitch with by wearing his glove on the other hand while touching the pitching rubber. From that point on, the pitcher is forbidden to switch arms during the at bat. A bit more transparent than the “Buster Posey Rule”, Venditte’s regulation is waiting to accompany it’s namesake to the big leagues.
As he approaches the make-it or break-it chapter of his career, the time is ripe for Venditte to prove he’s more than just a sidearming sideshow.