Look Ma, Two Hands! Phillies Trade for Ambidextrous Pitcher Pat Venditte
Two hands are better than one.
Sunday afternoon, the Phillies acquired switch-pitcher Pat Venditte from the Seattle Mariners. He’s light-handed, he’s reft-handed, he’s ambidextrous.
The 31-year-old, currently pitching for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, has spent time with four different organizations since the Yankees drafted him in the 20th round in 2008 from Creighton University.
He’s excelled in the high minors, with a career 2.93 ERA in four seasons in triple-A and a 3.09 ERA in parts of four seasons in double-A.
The cost for the Phillies was minor league outfielder Joey Curletta. If you haven’t heard of Curletta, it’s not just because of the numerous outfield prospects adorning the top of the team’s prospect rankings. Curletta was acquired from the Dodgers in September, after minor league seasons concluded, to complete the Carlos Ruiz-for-A.J. Ellis trade. His main (and debatably only) skill is hitting for power.
While right-handed throwing ability makes him a dime a dozen for relievers contending for a spot on the Phillies, his southpaw status could allow him to force his way into a bullpen short on left-handed talent.
Rodriguez is likely a lock for the pen. If there is to be a second left-hander on the 25-man roster, it will come from one of those four above.
If Burnett, Ramos, or Venditte are the final reliever (that would fill out a seven-man bullpen), someone will need to be jettisoned off the 40-man roster to make room for them.
Venditte is much better facing same-handed opponents as a lefty than he is as a right-hander. In 41 career MLB games, these are his splits:
As LHP vs LHB: 73 PA, .164/.219/.373/.592 OPS, 4.60 K/BB
As RHP vs RHB: 95 PA, .238/.347/.425, .772 OPS, 1.08 K/BB
Strength against left-handers would be a boon for a Phillies bullpen that last year struggled in that regard. Relievers allowed a .463 slugging percentage against lefties in 2016 (second highest in the MLB) and a 4.89 ERA (third worst in the majors).
A brief reminder about the rules of switch-pitching, especially when facing a switch-hitter:
- Venditte must indicate which hand he intends to throw with before each at-bat
- When facing a switch-hitter, Venditte must choose his throwing arm first before the batter decides from which side of the plate to hit
- He cannot switch in the middle of an at-bat unless he suffers an injury to that throwing arm, meaning he would not be allowed to throw with the injured arm for the rest of the game
- He does not get additional warm-up pitches when switching from one arm to another.
In 2008, this rule didn’t exist, leading to a comical back-and-forth where the batter would step in on the right side, Venditte would put his glove on his left hand, the batter would step out, switch sides, only to see Venditte do the same.
This lasted seven minutes.
Just because Venditte has to commit to his pitching arm first doesn’t mean all of his perceived advantage is lost. His flexibility can always allow him to force switch-hitters to their worse side. It also has runners-on-base implications, as he can use a lefty pickoff move to first.
Venditte will join the team in spring training once his time with Team Italy — and fellow Phillies organization-mate Nick Fanti — concludes.