The Blue Jays now have a player with two pitching arms and a six-fingered glove
The Jays already have a NYT-bestselling author knuckleballer on staff; earlier today they added an ambidextrous pitcher who owns a six-fingered glove.
Yes, Pat Venditte (pronounced Ven-det-ee) is a switch pitcher, meaning he can throw with either hand. Big-league baseball has never really seen anything like him or his special-made six-finger glove—at least, not in the modern age.
Take this for whatever it’s worth, but Wikipedia says there has only been one other instance of ambidextrous pitching since 1900: in 1995, in the second-last game of a long career, 39-year-old Greg A. Harris of the Montreal Expos faced two batters left-handed and two right-handed. It was a one-game-only novelty act.
Venditte, on the other hand, is trying to make a career out of the trick. In theory, it’s a good idea, because left-handed batters tend to do significantly worse against left-handed pitchers, and (to a lesser extent) right-handed batters do worse against righty pitchers. He nearly made the Blue Jays roster out of spring training as a lefty specialist, because he has historically performed better against lefties. Now it seems the team is hoping his right arm is strong enough that he’ll fare decently against right-handed batters, as well.
The Jays’ newfound confidence in Venditte’s right hand may have to do with a new grip he’s been using for his righty slider since spring training. It seems to be working. During his time playing for the Buffalo Bisons, the Jays’ Triple-A affiliate, he faced just six batters, all of them right-handers. With the new slider grip, he retired all six, striking out five.
Still, Venditte is an oddity. He even has his own entry in MLB’s official rulebook, MLB rule 5.07 (f). It was written after his first pro appearance against a switch hitter, when both hitter and pitcher changed sides several times before the umpires forced the game to continue. The “Venditte rule” now states: “A pitcher must indicate visually to the umpire-in-chief, the batter and any runners the hand with which he intends to pitch, which may be done by wearing his glove on the other hand while touching the pitcher’s plate. The pitcher is not permitted to pitch with the other hand until the batter is retired, the batter becomes a runner, the inning ends, the batter is substituted for by a pinch-hitter or the pitcher incurs an injury.”
As a result, Venditte will lose some of his natural advantage against switch hitters—but if something really has clicked with that new slider grip on his right side, maybe that’s not such a big concern. It should be fun watching what the Jays do with him. Here’s a look at both arms, from his major-league debut with the Athletics in 2015: