Pat Venditte may or may not be the best pitcher on the Staten Island roster, but he is unquestionably the most unique. The only ambidextrous pitcher in professional baseball, Venditte has thrown 20 1/3 innings for the Yankees’ short-season affiliate, 11 2/3 innings right-handed and 8 2/3 innings as a southpaw. Drafted by New York in the 20th round out of Creighton University, the 23-year-old Venditte has made 17 appearances overall and is 1-0, 1.33 with 11 saves.
David Laurila: What are your early impressions of pro ball?
Pat Venditte: It’s been a little bit of an adjustment from college, but the guys on the team and the coaching staff have made it quite easy, so it’s been a lot of fun so far. There’s definitely a lot of talent around this league. The guys who were hitting three and four in our conference, some of the top players in the Missouri Valley, are hitting in the eight and nine holes here from what I’ve seen. There are no weak spots in the lineup anymore, so it’s tough to get hitters out.
DL: How would you describe Pat Venditte the pitcher?
PV: From the right side, I rely a lot more on my fastball; I throw a curveball but rely heavily on my fastball. From the left side, I rely predominately on my slider, which I throw from a low three-quarters slot, and an occasional fastball. I don’t have as much velocity from my left side, so I have to do certain things to equal it out. One of those things is being able to locate offspeed pitches, which is one thing I really need to do in order to get hitters out.
DL: Have you always thrown from the lower arm slot as a lefty?
PV: No. By the time I got to my sophomore year in college, I realized that coming over the top all the time wasn’t going to get it done, so my pitching coach dropped me down to the sidearm slot that I throw from now. That’s really what allowed me to elevate myself in the college game. I do lose velocity when I drop down — which I only do from the left side — but I throw mainly a slider, so it doesn’t really matter.
DL: Do you grip your pitches any differently from the left and right sides?
PV: Everything is the same from both sides. I grip my slider the same way I grip my curveball.
DL: Is your lower half mechanically the same from each side?
PV: As far as the drive goes, yes, but for some reason when I throw from the left side I don’t get as much torque.
DL: Does having less velocity from the left side help to teach you that there’s a lot more to pitching than throwing hard?
PV: I think that velocity is important, but it has taught me that you can survive without it. It’s something that I’m looking to acquire more of; I’ve been doing certain things to try to add velocity, like long tossing. So it definitely helps, but it’s not everything; that’s for sure. You see guys in the major leagues right now that are throwing in the mid to upper 80s and are getting guys out. Those are the guys who really know how to pitch. When you don’t have a lot of velocity, I think that’s when you learn a lot about yourself and your stuff.
DL: What can you learn by watching soft tossers like Jamie Moyer and R.J. Swindle?
PV: You can learn a lot and it gives you hope. After seeing guys go out there and throw 98, and you look at the gun and see that you’re not even close to that – seeing that tells you that if you know how to pitch, and how to get guys out, you’re going to move up, no matter what your stuff is like. It helps to keep you motivated, knowing that there’s always a little light at the end of the tunnel.
DL: Switch hitters typically put in an equal amount of work from each side to prepare for a game. Do you do the same?
PV: Absolutely. It takes that same kind of mentality. From the left side, I’ll come out around 2 or 2:15 or whenever the team comes out to stretch, and I’ll do all of my work then. Then, before the game starts, around 6:30, I’ll come out and throw right-handed to get ready from that side.
DL: What are the rules that come into play if you face a switch-hitter?
PV: I face lefties left-handed, and righties right-handed, and the rule that’s set in place right now is that we’re each allowed to change once, but I have to dictate which way I’m going first. The hitter has the final say in the end, so if we come across a switch-hitter I try to dictate which way he hits.
DL: Do you always want same-side match-ups, or are there scenarios where you’d want to throw right-handed to a lefty, or vice-versa, because of the hitter’s strengths and weaknesses?
PV: As long as it’s not a switch-hitter, I’ve always taken that (same-side) advantage because it plays into my game. That said, I’m sure that as I go along and have access to more scouting reports, like how certain hitters do against righties and lefties, that might be an option down the road. But right now it’s not in the works.
DL: A lot of left-handed hitters don’t like to face left-handed pitchers. Do think that’s psychological as much as it is the movement on the pitches?
PV: Oh, absolutely. That’s the main part of the game right there, especially from a pitching standpoint. Mentality is a big part of baseball.
DL: Are you a better fielder as a right-hander or as a left-hander?
PV: I think that anybody will tell you that it’s a lot easier to field a bunt from the right side, because you don’t have to twist and turn, but I’ve done a lot of work to get my left side better. I feel that I’m comfortable either way.
DL: How about as a hitter?
PV: As a hitter I’m pretty brutal from both sides. If I had to pick, I’d probably go up there to hit right-handed.
DL: What did you study in school, and what are you normally doing when you’re away from the field?
PV: At Creighton, I’m a marketing major and have one semester left. I’m looking forward to going back for that in the fall. As far as what I like to do off the field, it kind of depends on the day. Sometimes it’s video games; sometimes it’s golf.
DL: Is golf right side or left side?
PV: Good question. The golf is right-handed. Pretty much everything I do in life is.
DL: How about personality-wise? Are you a right-brain person or a left-brain person?
PV: I guess it depends on whether I’m being creative or analytical. I go both ways there.