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.

Phillies recall Jake Thompson from Triple A, option Ricardo Pinto to Lehigh Valley

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Phillies recall Jake Thompson from Triple A, option Ricardo Pinto to Lehigh Valley

After Monday night's rain-soaked blowout loss, the Phillies' bullpen seems to be a bit depleted.

With that in mind, the Phillies have recalled pitcher Jake Thompson from Triple A and optioned reliever Ricardo Pinto to Lehigh Valley.

After a lengthy rain delay cut short Vince Velasquez's start, the Phils' bullpen was charged with six innings of work in the 13-4 loss. Pinto, responsible for five of the runs, tossed 1 1/3 innings as play resumed in the fourth inning. 

He may not be down for long, though, as the Phils have an off day Thursday to recover.

Thompson seems like a peculiar choice to call up. He's struggled mightily this year in Lehigh Valley. The 23-year-old who came over in the Cole Hamels trade, is 4-11 with a 5.36 ERA. He's given up 107 hits in 94 innings pitched, as well as 36 walks on the year — one less than he gave up in 129 2/3 innings in 2016.

However, Thompson is already on the 40-man roster and has not pitched since going seven strong innings of two-run ball on July 20. 

Tonight's lineup: Phillies showcasing Howie Kendrick in cleanup spot

Tonight's lineup: Phillies showcasing Howie Kendrick in cleanup spot

With less than a week to go before the trade deadline, the Phillies are putting Howie Kendrick in prime position to show off his skillset to a contender.

After sitting out last night's 14-3 loss, Kendrick returns to the lineup, batting cleanup and playing left field. In four games since returning from a hamstring injury, Kendrick has picked up where he left off, hitting .364 with two RBIs. Overall, Kendrick has appeared in just 37 games for the Phillies in 2017, but has been exceptional when healthy. 

Although he may not hit for power, his .350 batting average and ability to play multiple positions in the infield and outfield should be enough to interest teams. 

Cesar Hernandez will again lead off vs. the Astros. Much like Kendrick, Hernandez has had a strong return from the DL, hitting .321 with six RBIs in seven games since the All-Star break. He's also worked five walks compared to just three strikeouts. It's no surprise Hernandez's return has coincided with the Phillies' recent hot offensive stretch (see Game Notes)

Since the All-Star break, the Phillies have the seventh-most runs scored in all of baseball. Monday's loss ended a stretch of seven straight games of five or more runs scored for the Phillies — their longest single-season stretch since 2005.

Nick Williams will hit in the three-hole for the second straight game. Williams has sparked the Phils' stagnant offense since his arrival to the big leagues. In 20 MLB games, Williams is slashing .315/.350/.966 with four homers and 18 RBIs. 

Here is the Phillies lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Howie Kendrick, LF
5. Odubel Herrera, CF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Tommy Joseph, 1B
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Nick Pivetta, P

And for the Astros:
1. Jose Altuve, 2B
2. Josh Reddick, RF
3. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
4. Evan Gattis, C
5. Marwin Gonzalez, SS
6. Derek Fisher, CF
7. Alex Bregman, 3B
8. Norichika Aoki, LF
9. Charlie Morton, P