Thursday, June 23, 2011

Switch Pitching?

In an email this week Will the Quill, sent me a video which I found hard to believe. It showed a pitcher in the minor leagues pitching with both arms. He pitched left and right interchangeably. I did not even know that this was possible at a professional level nor that someone could be able to handle the mechanical aspects of pitching from both sides.

This young gun pitcher is Pat Venditte, a 26-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska. In his high school and college days he pitched both right and left. On June 19, 2008 (when 23) he pitched a scoreless ninth inning. However, he became noticed by everyone when he faced a switch hitter Ralph Henriquez of the Brooklyn Cyclones on the last out of the game. Venditte then pitched for the Staten Island Yankees. Henriquez came up to bat left then Venditte switched to throw right. Henriquez then crossed over to the right box. This went on for quite a while, then the umpires decided that the batter must pick one way to hit and stick to it. The pitcher can then decide with which arm to throw. Both managers were in the fray and the result is one for the books. The video shows how this played out and the confusion created:

Pat Venditte was trained by his father from childhood to pitch both ways, even though Venditte is a natural right hander. Hours of practice on mechanics with both hands took place in the family backyard. But, here is the big thing, you have to have the same feel and control of the ball from both sides. For this, Venditte's father made him punt footballs with both legs to balance his body, strength from both sides and too establish the needed leg motion. He pitched right to righties and left to lefties. From his natural right side, Venditte throws over the top with a curve and moderate fastball. From the left, he throws sidearm with a slider. His glove is an interesting two-directional deal with a thumb hole on each side and appears to have netting in the middle. He can change back and forth quickly.

Because of this very unique situation, the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation (PBUC) came up with new rules on July 3, 2008. It limits the number of times a switch hitter vs switch pitcher can change sides during one at bat:

“The pitcher must visually indicate to the umpire, batter and runner(s) which way he will begin pitching to the batter. Engaging the rubber with the glove on a particular hand is considered a definitive commitment to with which arm he will throw. The batter will then choose which side of the plate he will bat from.

The pitcher is not permitted to pitch with the other hand until the batter is retired, the batter becomes a runner, the inning ends, the batter is substituted for by a pinch-hitter or the pitcher incurs an injury.

Any switch (by either the pitcher or the batter) must be clearly indicated to the umpire. There will be no warm-up pitches during the change of arms.

If an injury occurs the pitcher may change arms but not use that arm again during the remainder of the game.”

One quick aside; Greg A. Harris is the only MLB switch pitcher in the modern era. He did it only twice on September 28, 1995 (as an Expo) against the Reds. In the ninth inning he faced four batters the first right-handed, the next two left-handed and the last out against Brett Boone as a rightie.

Pat Venditte is now playing for the Yankee’s Class-AA Trenton Thunder. This year to date he is 0-3 with an ERA of 3.52. In 2010, at spring training he pitched for the Yankees against the Braves. Venditte has not yet been called up to the majors.


Rick Blechta said...

I love this clip! Thanks!!

JohnZ said...

I remember when this first happened = great stuff...thank you for posting it.