As I see it, one of the more interesting minor-league story-lines for the Yankees this season will center upon the development of ambidextrous reliever, Pat Venditte. For those who are unfamiliar with Venditte, for whatever reason, and therefore are confused by the thought of an ambidextrous pitcher, this video clip from 2007 should help to explain what he is, exactly. Basically, he can throw as a right-hander, over-the-top, and as a left-hander, side-arm (3/4 angle). His fastball as a righty sits in the 85-89 mph range, and, as a southpaw, he generally works in the high-70s, low 80s. Venditte also throws two very good breaking pitches—a slow, looping curveball, which is used as a secondary offering from the right side, and a “frisbee-like” slider from the other side that is used as his main left-handed pitch. Venditte’s pitching style is hardly conventional, but it has been effective for him in his short minor-league career.
In 2008, while with the Staten Island Yankees and in his first season as a Yankee farmhand, Venditte tossed 32 2/3 innings and saved 23 games. He struck out 42, walked 10, and allowed 2 homers. Remarkably, the switch-pitcher only gave up 3 earned runs – that’s with the 2 home runs – and posted a 0.83 ERA (2.34 FIP). In 2009, splitting time between Charleston and Tampa, Venditte posted a 1.87 ERA – 1.21 FIP in Charleston, 1.73 FIP in Tampa – in 49 games, striking out 87 over 67 1/3 innings pitched, while walking 11, allowing 2 home runs, and 14 earned runs, in total. His splits against left-handers and right-handers were impressive, as neither set of opponents seemed to bother him on the mound. Regardless of process, results matter, and Venditte has delivered in the minors. However, process – how you “look” when you get outs – also matters and I wonder if Venditte will be hurt by his unorthodox style.
Yesterday, in an interview between John Sickels and Yankees Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, Mark Newman (fresh off his recent DUI), Newman noted that Venditte would begin the 2010 season in High-A Tampa. When asked how quickly the successful switch-pitcher could advance through the minor-league ranks, Newman said that if Venditte “keeps up this kind of performance we will advance him aggressively.” As an inherent skeptic, I wonders whether or not Newman is just paying lip service to an aggressive advancement. So far, the Yankees have taken small steps with Venditte, as if they too are in disbelief of both his style and success. An incremental approach is to be expected in the minors, that much is obvious, but if Venditte represented a more normative view of pitching, perhaps he would have started the year in Trenton, pitching in Double-A, rather than High-A Tampa. If Venditte pitches well this season yet remains in Tampa for the entire year, it could be because of his marked uniqueness. To prove themselves, these types of pitchers – Chad Bradford-like anomalies – always seem to have to jump threw a few extra hoops.
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