A's giving switch-pitcher a look in camp

Ambidextrous Venditte hopes to be more than a novelty and reach Majors

A's giving switch-pitcher a look in camp

MESA, Ariz. -- All eyes were on Pat Venditte on Friday, when the ambidextrous A's pitcher toed the rubber for two separate bullpen sessions -- throwing first with his left arm, then with his right.

"I was probably 7 or 8 when I was the weird kid pitching out there with both hands, but it's something you get used to," said Venditte. "And I think, as everyone will see, it's something that I need in order to pitch at a high level."

The 29-year-old is a natural right-hander, but his father, Pat Venditte Sr., taught him how to throw with both hands at the tender age of 3. By age 7, he was letting Dad trace his hands on a piece of paper that would later be faxed to Mizuno in Osaka, Japan, for a personalized switch-handed glove.

Venditte eventually wants to be more than just a conversation piece. He spent seven seasons in the Yankees' Minor League system without a big league promotion, despite pitching to a 2.46 ERA and 4.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in that span. Free agency brought him to the A's, who hope to make him the first full-time switch-pitcher in the history of the game.

Former Major Leaguer Greg A. Harris was also ambidextrous, but he pitched with both hands in just one inning for the Expos, on Sept. 28, 1995.

"I had always told myself I was going to go with the team that seemed to want me the most," Venditte said. "From the get-go, this was the organization that seemed to have the most interest in me, so it was an easy decision for me."

The fit is too perfect, seeing as how the A's love collecting versatile players.

"That's what I told him," said manager Bob Melvin. "He is in the right place."

With Venditte comes "The Pat Venditte Rule" (Rule 8.01(f)), which states 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 pitcher's plate." From that point, there's no switching allowed during that at-bat.

"I wish the rule was the other way around, where the hitter had to choose first," he said, "but it allows the game to keep going at a fast pace."

Only once has Venditte considered sticking with one hand to pitch, in 2012 when he suffered a right shoulder injury. He was convinced he'd have to become a full-time southpaw, until the Yankees changed his mind.

"I don't know how he does it," said Melvin. "It's one thing to be able to throw a ball with both hands, let alone throw it pretty similar. The arm action is fairly the same. He impressed me today."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.