CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pat Venditte's story has been told many times since he broke into professional baseball as a 20th-round draft pick of the New York Yankees in 2008.
But it was never told in the middle of the Phillies' clubhouse until Thursday afternoon.
"Ever since I started picking up a ball at three or four years old, my dad worked with me," said Venditte, graciously telling a group of reporters when his journey to becoming an ambidextrous pitcher began.
"He was thinking outside the box a little bit. He thought if there could be switch-hitters, why not a switch-pitcher?"
Venditte's two-sided pitching skills took him to Creighton University, where he was a teammate and roommate of Darin Ruf, and ultimately to the major leagues. He pitched in 41 games for Oakland, Toronto and Seattle the last two seasons and was traded from the Mariners to the Phillies (for minor-league outfielder Joey Curletta) over the weekend.
Venditte is not on the 40-man roster and will likely provide some intriguing bullpen depth at Triple-A.
But, he is in big-league camp and no one has ruled out his making a quick impression over the Phillies' final two weeks in Florida and landing on the opening day roster.
"The last couple spring trainings I’ve been a non-roster invitee," Venditte said. "It’s kind of an outside shot at making the team. I just kind of went in with the attitude of go in and show them that I can help the team, whether that be on opening day or in June. My goal here is to just have a good showing and help this team."
Spots in the Phillies' bullpen are at a premium. Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek and Edubray Ramos are pretty much set from the right side. Manager Pete Mackanin has said he'd like to carry two lefties in 'pen, but it could end up being one if right-hander Luis Garcia, who has recently added a splitter, continues to impress. Venditte is more effective from the left side (facing lefty hitters). He joins a group of lefty candidates that includes Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez, Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos. Of this group, only Morgan and Rodriguez are on the 40-man roster, and that could significantly impact the team's decisions.
Venditte's major-league splits favor his work from the left side as he has held lefty hitters to a .187 batting average while right-handed batters have hit .286.
Venditte isn't the first ambidextrous pitcher. Greg Harris, a former Phillie, pitched from both sides with the Expos in 1995. Harris wore a specially made, six-finger glove that fit both hands. The glove was an inspiration for the one that Venditte wears. His dad, Pat Sr., ordered his son's first combination glove from a Japanese company when Pat was a youngster.
"My dad traced my hand, faxed it to the Mizuno factory in Japan and two months later I had my first glove," Venditte said. "As crazy as it sounds, that’s how it happened."
Per major league rule, Venditte must declare which arm he will throw with before an opposing team sends a switch-hitter to the plate. His repertoire is different from each side.
"Left-handed, I'm pretty much all side-armed," he said. "Fastball, slider, working on a little bit of a change-up. Right-handed, I work both arm angles, over the top and side-armed. I throw a little bit harder right-handed."
Venditte is a naturally right-hand dominant. Throwing is the only thing he does from the left side -- thanks to his resourceful dad.
"I'm very grateful he did it because if you look at velocity and things like that, I probably wouldn't be here without this switch-pitching advantage," Venditte said.
The 31-year-old native Nebraskan is a personable and accommodating fellow. He said he often hears from youngsters who are trying their hand at throwing from both sides.
"Kids reach out all the time," he said. "When you’re younger you think it’s only a matter of time before you’re going to be in the big leagues. I have kids reach out and say they’re ambidextrous, as well. They hope to one day be in the big leagues. As far as that goes, it’s nice to have some sort of influence, but for me, it’s more about getting outs at the big-league level, left-handed or right-handed. It’s just whatever I have to do to help the team.