Switch pitcher: Creighton's ambidextrous Venditte is two pitchers in one

Friday, April 28, 2006

OMAHA, Neb. -- Pat Venditte Sr. came up with the idea when he was tossing a ball to his 3-year-old son in the backyard.

Wouldn't it be neat if he could get Pat Jr., a natural right-hander, to throw with both arms equally well?

Neat, indeed.

Now "Little Pat," as his dad calls him, is the only active switch pitcher in Division I baseball and one of the few to throw both ways in the history of the sport.

The sophomore is a middle reliever for Creighton. And just as Dad hoped, Pat Jr. is equally good from both sides, his coaches and statistics say.

Venditte's ERA is 2.36 as a righty and 2.92 as a lefty. Venditte retired all six batters he faced in two innings against Kansas on Wednesday -- three as a righty, three as a lefty. He had a strikeout with each arm.

"I have average stuff from both sides, and I really think it takes me to pitch with both arms even to be a little bit effective here," Venditte said. "It throws the hitters off and it gives me the advantage almost every at-bat. I need every inch I can take."

Just wants to play

If you think Creighton got two pitchers for the price of one, you would be wrong. Venditte is a walk-on who, as Creighton coach Ed Servais says, "recruited us."

Venditte told Servais he would pay his own way to school if Servais would give him a chance to pitch. The coach said he made no promises but was impressed with Venditte's determination and competitiveness.

Venditte's strength is location, not power. He throws 80 or 81 mph as a lefty and about 85 mph as a righty.

Venditte worked 3 2/3 innings last season as a freshman, all right-handed.

He pitched both ways for the first time as a collegian on Feb. 17 against Illinois-Chicago. He now has done it in 17 of his 23 appearances.

"The first couple times we were hesitant because of my respect for baseball," Servais said. "I didn't want it to be a sideshow."

Venditte is 2-1, and his combined ERA of 2.51 is third-best on the team. Theoretically, he can do twice the work of a regular pitcher, Servais said.

"If another guy throws 30 pitches one day, I know I'm not going to be able to use him the next day," Servais said. "With Pat, if he throws 30 pitches, and 15 are right-handed and 15 are left-handed, I know I can come back to him tomorrow."

Venditte's repertoire is fastball, curveball, changeup as a righty and fastball, slider, changeup as a lefty.

Venditte wears an ambidextrous glove that has two thumb holes and four finger holes, switching hands accordingly. His father has been ordering the tailor-made gloves, at almost $700 each, from the Mizuno factory in Osaka, Japan, since Pat Jr. was 7.

The rules require Venditte to declare which way he's going to pitch before each batter steps into the box.

If a switch hitter is due up, pitching coach Travis Wyckoff will signal to Venditte which arm to use based on the scouting report.

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