At spring training in 2010, when his location was pinpoint from both the right and left sides, he amazed several Pittsburgh farmhands with his ability to get batters out from both sides.
The 25-year-old native of Omaha, Neb., went on to have a superb season at Class-A Advanced Tampa, putting together a 4-1, 1.73 mark in 43 appearances with a strikeout/walk ratio of 89-15. He made two appearances in Trenton, going 1-1, 9.00.
Venditte throws three pitches from the right side, a fastball that sits in the upper-80s and can hit 90, plus a curve and a changeup he can throw for strikes. From the left he tosses a fastball in the lower-80s and a slider that sits in the 70s.
At all previous levels, Venditte, who was signed out of Creighton for $10,000 as a 20th-round pick in 2008, and has been an ambidextrous pitcher since he was three, has been able to use his combination to dominate hitters.
Yet, his efforts have left scouts and other baseball observers mixed. He’s had to prove himself at every level and, so far, the Double-A Eastern League is proving to be a tough hurdle. In 10 appearances prior to Wednesday night’s contest with Portland at Waterfront Park, Venditte is 0-1, 7.71 with 21 hits and 12 earned runs allowed in 14 innings.
While he’s certainly not pleased with those numbers, he is, as always, a stand-up guy who makes no excuses.
“It doesn’t matter if I am throwing to a righty or a lefty, from the right side or left side,’’ said Venditte. “I’m just not getting the ball where I want to. They (opposing hitters) are hitting my mistakes.
“I’m working hard to correct that. There are things you can get away with at the lower levels you can’t here.’’
So far this season, Venditte has looked sharp throwing righty one game, only to make a mistake tossing as a southpaw. In his next appearance, that is reversed. It’s called getting over the Double-A pitching hurdle.
No matter what side the delivery comes from, or what side of the plate the opposing batter swings from, the goal is always the same.
“I have to get the hitters out,’’ said Venditte. “Right now, I’m missing my pitches. All I can do is continue to work. I’ve got to get through this if I want to pitch. Otherwise, this isn’t what either I or the team needs.’’
Given he has more arm strength from the right side, Venditte is often asked by members of the media if he would abandon his ambidextrous status and throw only from the right. The polite answer is, “No.’’
When he’s hitting his spots, no matter which side, as he did in spring training through the 2010 season, he is an impressive weapon able to retire anyone he faces. Chances are, his location will recover and he’ll be a weapon for manager Tony Franklin’s club.
“Pat’s not the only pitcher who is struggling with a bit of location,’’ said Franklin. “All these guys can throw and get batters out, but for many it’s their first real taste of Double-A baseball. It’s an adjustment for a few of them.’’
One of Venditte’s challenges is the switch hitter. He must signal which side he is pitching from.
“I’d love it to be right, right, left, right, left, or something like that,’’ he said. “Unfortunately, switch hitters are part of it. I have to get them all out.’’
Venditte is not pouting. He knows, in the past, he has been able to get many of the hitters he is facing in a Thunder uniform were opponents he handled before. Things are just a bit out of sync.
“Whatever they want me to do, pitch to righties or lefties, one inning or two, I have to get this worked out. Otherwise ….’’
As Judy Collins, Venditte looks at life, on the mound, “from both sides now.’’
WELCOME BACK, JOSE GIL: Thunder catcher Jose Gil often gets lost in the shuffle when many observers talk about Yankees catching prospects. Jesus Montero, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez always lead the conversation.
The 24-year-old Gil, a native of Barcelona, Venezuela, is, however, a solid player in his own right.
“I know I can play, and I’m glad to be here,’’ said Gil. “I’ve been in this league before, and I can maybe help some of the guys who are here for the first time.’’
Signed by the Yankees as a free-agent in 2003 as a 17-year-old, Gil has always been a good guy to have on a team – a solid backup catcher who can handle pitchers and contribute a timely hit, or even home run from time to time.
Gil, who is in his third Thunder stint, began this season with Triple-A Scranton, playing six games and batting .250 (4-for-16). In two starts with the Thunder, he is batting .143 (1-for-7), with that hit being a home run in Tuesday’s game with Portland.
“I can contribute when I’m called upon,’’ said Gil. “I enjoy playing the game.’’
If he comes up with one of his hits in a key spot, don’t be surprised.
FROM MAINE TO OHIIO: Many are talking about Reading’s offense, which has already belted 28 homers in 25 games. Cody Overbeck leads the EL with eight circuit clouts, and is tied with New Britain’s Ray Chang for the league’s RBI lead with 22 … Thunder fans have to be impressed with Portland outfielder Alex Hassan, a former 20th-round Red Sox pick who played at Duke. The Milton, Mass., native entered last night’s game hitting an EL-leading .427 (35-for-82) …. Reading is also getting the pitching with right-hander J.C. Ramirez, who is off to a 4-0, 1.03 start with a complete game. Not a strikeout pitcher, Ramirez has been effective changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance.