Yankees’ Ambidextrous Minor-League Pitcher Makes a Dizzying Debut

Pat Venditte
Photo: AP

Earlier this season, when Hank Steinbrenner suggested that right-hander Mike Mussina learn to pitch more like left-hander Jamie Moyer, most assumed it was just another example of Hank's verbiage and logic gone awry. But could it have been just the beginning of the Yankees' plan to develop an army of unstoppable ambidextrous pitchers? If so, that would certainly explain the professional debut last night of Pat Venditte, a twentieth-round draft pick out of Creighton University, who thanks to a special six-finger glove, is baseball's only switch pitcher.

Assigned to the Yanks' affiliate on Staten Island, Venditte's debut in Brooklyn against the Cyclones last night didn't disappoint, especially in terms of entertainment value. After starting the ninth by getting two ground-ball outs and allowing a single — all throwing right-handed — Venditte switched his glove to his right hand in anticipation of Ralph Henriquez, a switch-hitter who'd swung left-handed while on deck. But Henriquez stepped into the right-handed batter's box, so Venditte switched his glove again. Henriquez then switched sides, and Venditte did the same.

Then again.

And again, before time was called and the umpires met with the managers. The SNY announcers didn't seem to know the rule — they suggested flipping a coin — but when the game finally started up again, Venditte (throwing right-handed) struck Henriquez (batting right-handed) out. Perhaps it was the first step in becoming the Yankees' closer one day. And, if he plays his cards right, their lefty specialist, too. —Joe DeLessio