Ambidextrous Pat Venditte arrives in camp eyeing bullpen spot with Phillies

Ambidextrous Pat Venditte arrives in camp eyeing bullpen spot with Phillies

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.

Larry Bowa on Jim Bunning: His words 'resonated throughout my career'

Larry Bowa on Jim Bunning: His words 'resonated throughout my career'

Beyond the center field wall at Citizens Bank Park, retired Phillies uniform No. 14 was draped in black cloth on Saturday afternoon.
 
Jim Bunning, who wore that number during six seasons with the club, died late Friday night at his home in Kentucky. The Hall of Fame pitcher, who went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, was 85.
 
Bunning was a workhorse right-hander who pitched with smarts and competitiveness during his 17 seasons in the majors. He also pitched with the Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers. He averaged 35 starts and won 89 games during his six seasons with the Phillies. He also authored one of the most iconic moments in club history when he pitched the franchise's first perfect game on a searing hot Father's Day in 1964 against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.
 
Talking about a perfect game as it is unfolding is considered baseball taboo. To mention it is to risk jinxing it. But Bunning broke tradition and in the late innings of that game talked openly with teammates in the dugout about the possibility of finishing off the feat.
 
"Jim Bunning was way too practical of a man to worry about a jinx," former teammate Rick Wise once said. Wise pitched the second game of that Father's Day doubleheader. It started 20 minutes after Bunning completed his perfecto and Wise had trouble finding a ball and a catcher to warm him up because everyone was busy celebrating the perfect game.
 
Bunning went 224-184 with a 3.27 ERA in 591 career games. He led the American League with 20 wins in 1957. He led the league in innings twice and strikeouts three times. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1996 and went into Cooperstown as a Phillie.
 
Bunning had two tours with the Phillies, 1964-67 and 1970-71, and was a straight-laced competitor who expected effort and excellence from his teammates. During his second time through Philadelphia, as he was nearing the end of his career, he was a teammate of a young shortstop named Larry Bowa.
 
"I remember him coming up to me and saying, ‘Don’t ever, ever lose your energy. I don’t want to turn around and see your head dropping because you’re 0 for 3,’" Bowa recalled Saturday. "He said, ‘I don’t ever want to see that.’ He said, ‘You’ve got to be accountable. You’ve got to play with energy. You’ve got to play every inning of every game.
 
"I made an error one day and he turned around — I didn’t even want to make eye contact with him — he turned around and he was rubbing the ball and looked at me and I went, 'Yeah, I know I should have caught it.' He was just that intense."
 
Bunning had a mean streak on the mound. He led the league in hit batsman four times.
 
Bowa recalled the time Ron Hunt — a notorious plunkee — did not get out of the way of a Bunning breaking ball. As Hunt ran to first base, Bunning admonished him.
 
"He went over and said, 'Ron, if you want to get hit, I’ll hit you next time and it won’t be a breaking ball.' That’s what kind of competitor he was."
 
Bunning suffered a stroke last year.
 
"I knew he had been sick," Bowa said. "Tremendous, tremendous person who taught me a lot about the game in a short time.
 
"He always gave me good advice. He talked about self-evaluation with me all the time. He said you’ve got to be accountable in this game, no one gives you anything in this game. I never had a pitcher mentor me like he did. In spring training, he told me, ‘Keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open.’ It was that simple. I said, ‘Yes, sir.’
 
"When a guy like that takes the time with someone who is just starting, it’s, I mean, it resonated throughout my career."

MLB Notes: Tigers place 2B Ian Kinsler on 10-day disabled list

MLB Notes: Tigers place 2B Ian Kinsler on 10-day disabled list

CHICAGO -- The Detroit Tigers placed Ian Kinsler on the 10-day disabled list because of a strained left hamstring ahead of their doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.

Outfielder JaCoby Jones was recalled from Triple A Toledo to fill the roster spot. He was scheduled to start the first game of the twin bill in center field.

Kinsler sat out five games because of the same injury this month. He has a .239 batting average, four home runs and 11 RBIs in 41 games this season.

Also, the Tigers acquired the contract of pitcher Arcenio Leon and Chad Bell was optioned to Toledo. Bell pitched 2 1/3 innings on Friday. Pitcher William Cuevas was designated for assignment.

Leon spent the 2016 season in the Mexican League before signing as minor league free agent last winter. He'd be making his major league debut.

Indians: Ace starter Corey Kluber expected to rejoin rotation next week
CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber, sidelined most of the month with a strained lower back, is expected to rejoin the Cleveland Indians rotation on Thursday against Oakland.

Cleveland's ace right-hander hasn't pitched since May 2 when he left his start against Detroit after three innings. He threw five scoreless innings for Double-A Akron on a minor league rehab assignment Friday.

Kluber is 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA in six starts. He pitched 249 1/3 innings last season, including 34 1/3 in the playoffs. Kluber also pitched on three days rest three times during the postseason, two coming against the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.

Kluber was 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA and two shutouts in the regular season and went 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA in six playoff starts. He won the AL Cy Young Award in 2014 and was third in the voting last season.

Indians manager Terry Francona didn't say whose spot Kluber will take in the rotation.

Padres: OF Manuel Margot placed on 10-day DL with calf strain
WASHINGTON -- The San Diego Padres placed Manuel Margot on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right calf before Saturday's game against the Washington Nationals.

The centerfielder left Wednesday's game with calf soreness. He was in a walking boot ahead of Friday's series opener.

Second on the team in at-bats, the 22-year-old Margot is batting .259 with four home runs and 13 RBIs.

"He's just sore right now," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He'll take off four-to-five days and keep the workload really minimum. After that, see how he progresses."

Outfielder Franchy Cordero was called up from Triple-A El Paso for his major league debut. He is expected to start Sunday and receive much of the playing time in center field.