I had a chance to sit down and interview Pat Venditte over the phone, and man what a great guy he is. He had a great personality, and even stayed on the phone with my girlfriend’s cat meowing obnoxiously in the background while he was trying to answer questions. After having a chance to talk to him, I can see why he has made it this far in his career, and is now knocking on the door to the bigs.
Pat Venditte is a switch pitcher the Yankees drafted in the 20th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Creighton University. Since then he’s turned in nothing but successful seasons at every level. He hasn’t had a single season with an ERA above 3.4, and that was in Double-A last year. Last year he struggled out of the gate for the first month and a half, but then made some adjustments and had a really impressive scoreless innings streak of 20 innings towards the end of the season. He finished the season strong and his statistics came down to impressive levels.
If you consult his fan club website, www.patvendittefanclub.com, they will tell you that after the 20 inning scoreless streak, he earned the nickname “Patty Bagels.” How cool is it that he has his own fan club and website? I have no problem calling him “Patty Bagels,” because I hope he puts up some more bagels this season.
Venditte was unprotected in the rule 5 draft this offseason, but luckily for us no one drafted him. He’ll remain in the system for at least another year, and hopefully he can become a useful piece in our bullpen in the years to come.
This season started off on the wrong foot for Venditte, with a 2 inning, 4 ER outing during which he let up a homerun and an uncharacteristic 2 walks. Since then, he’s thrown 7 innings of shutout ball, with 6 strikeouts and has held opposing hitters to a .190 average. With the slight adjustments he has made in the early season, hopefully the success continues.
For his two arms, Venditte has two different scouting reports. From the right side, he sits low 90s with the fastball and also throws a curveball and slider. He has worked on dropping down from the right side with the fastball and slider, and this has helped him overcome some of the concerns about velocity. It gives hitters a different look and allows him to get batters out without blowing it by them. He also has developed a cutter with the help of Tommy Phelps which helped him a lot towards the end of last season.
From the left side, his fastball is mid to upper 80’s, and he also throws a slider.
Without lighting up the radar gun, however, Venditte figures out a way to get guys out. He managed an 8.8 K/9 last season. Although that was down from the previous season, he appears to be maintaining that strikeout rate in Triple-A, albeit with a small sample size.
Some will point to his age, 26, as a red flag and as a sign that although he is in Triple-A, he may never make the major leagues. While that is true of any Triple-A player, being 26 is much less of a concern for a relief pitcher than it is for a starter. Coming out of college, he has moved up appropriately from one level to the next each year. He didn’t get an invite to Spring Training this season, but if he pitches as well as he did in the second half last season, there is no way he gets overlooked again next year.
Anyway, here is the interview.
BBD: What kinds of things did you work on at Double-A Trenton last year? And how has that prepared you for Triple-A?
PV: I had a rough start to last season. For the first month and a half, Tommy Phelps and I had constant work together. He showed me a cutter from the right side that helped me get along mentally and get switch hitters out from the left side. He added the new pitch and that gave me confidence and definitely helped me a lot for the second half of the season.
BBD: What kinds of things are you working on this year?
PV: Once you get up to the next level you’ve gotta be able to get hitters out every day. I’m just going out there and trying to pitch to the best of my ability. Locating and getting ahead of every batter is important for me and trying to get into counts where these guys can’t just sit on fastballs.
BBD: Is this a make or break year for you?
PV:You never know in this game, that’s the one thing I’ve learned over the past for seasons. One day you’re on the bottom and the next your on top of the world. Then things can reverse again just like that. I try not to think of this as make or break. I just want to take advantage of my chances here and do the best I can.
BBD: Did you pitch in Venezuela this year? What was that like?
PV: I actually pitched in Mexico from the first week of October to January 20th. Then I was called to the Dominican Republic to pitch for Leones de Escogito. I was there eight days and it was a lot of fun.
BBD: Did you have any extra time to go down and enjoy the beaches?
PV: It was nonstop playing, and we didn’t get to go down to the beach at all. We were in the playoffs so it was all business for those eight days.
BBD: Did you ever play in Venezuela? If so were you afraid of being kidnapped?
PV: In 2009 I had a month to play in Venezuela. No I was never afraid of that until I heard what happened this year. It was pretty crazy. If you keep to yourself and don’t go looking for trouble in places like that you’re not gonna find it.
BBD: What’s the most interesting/valuable international experience you’ve had since joining the organization?
PV: I played in Venezuela, Mexico, and Dominican. It makes you appreciate what you have here. It really makes you realize how fortunate we are to have what we have. More than baseball, it’s been life lessons going overseas.
BBD: What are foreign fans’ reactions to you?
PV: Anytime it’s something they haven’t seen before they are intrigued. The next thing is though you have to show them you can pitch. They want to make sure you are not just there because you can pitch with both hands. I’ve been very fortunate to have the fans be very supportive. In Mexico they were great, and in the Dominican Republic the fans are some of the most passionate fans you’ll see in your life. It’s great to see how they support their teams especially in the playoffs and the finals.
BBD: I’ve been told you are pretty close with David Phelps… what are your thoughts on his recent promotion and what he’s been doing in the majors?
PV: We were together in Staten Island, and really started our journey together. He took off when he got to Tampa. For him to have this kind of success has been great for me to watch. I’ve watched him pitch on Fox the past two Saturdays, and it’s been outstanding to see what he’s done. He’s locating his pitches and everything like that; he’s come so far and to see him having this success is fantastic.
BBD: You have also come a long way from when you first joined the organization. How have you changed as a player since you were first signed?
PV: I don’t know how much I’ve changed. I’ve started throwing harder and coaches added some wrinkles in to help get hitters out at each level. Dropping down right handed has been a big help. Tommy Phelps and Scott Aldred have been a huge help with the changes they have helped me make. Occasionally I throw side arm sliders and fastballs to give a different look. I don’t throw very hard so I need those other things to get these guys out.
BBD: What do you think you need to do to get promoted to the majors?
PV: That’s a huge jump. I’m still a ways from that promotion with all of the great arms we have in the organization. All I can do is get ahead of hitters and throw strikes. If I stay consistent eventually one day I’ll get my chance.
BBD: What are your thoughts on the Pat Venditte rule? Is it fair?
PV: I wish it was the other way around where the switch hitters didn’t get the advantage. If the switch hitters had to decide which side they would hit from before the at bat instead of vice versa, that would have been really helpful. It would be a huge advantage to be able to face those switch hitters as right handers, but it is what it is and I’ve been working through it. The rule has been in place for a long time now though and I will continue to do my best to work around it.
BBD: How is your training and warm-up routine different than other pitchers?
PV: When it comes time to get in the game it’s the same as other pitchers. You have to get ready quick. I like to have a little bit more time to get ready because I have to get both arms warmed up, but when the call comes to the bullpen I have to be ready to go. Long toss is different. I play long toss with two players. I have to go once with one of the players and then get one of the coaches or another player to get the other arm.
BBD: When you are training and warming up, do you have to throw twice the amount of pitches as the other guys?
PV: Throughout the day it is twice as much as everyone else, but on the flip side it’s always the same because it’s really two different arms getting the work.
BBD: Pitching also takes a lot of leg strength and endurance, do you have to be in better shape to keep your legs under you?
PV: I condition enough and I’m not in games for extended periods of time so leg fatigue isn’t really an issue.
BBD: It seems like you are able to adjust very well to every level you come to. What adjustments are you trying to make to Triple-A batters early on?
PV: It’s not far enough into the season to say. It’s only been 5 or 6 outings. The first one was pretty bad and since then I’ve been focusing on slowing the game down and working ahead in counts. It really is phenomenal how much time the coaches spend with us on a daily basis all year round. The adjustments they have helped me make have definitely made me a better player.
BBD: What are the coaches of the Empire State Yankees doing to prepare you for the major leagues?
PV: Here you’re facing a lot of hitters who have already played in the major leagues. More than anything they want us to go out there and compete, and work through situations on our own. At this point it’s really whether we work hard to become the pitchers that we want to be to go on to the next level. The coaches are there to help, but it’s really on us to take our games to the next level.
After interviewing Pat, it is obvious to me he is a great guy. He has exceptional character and he’s going to work as hard as he can to make it to the next level and succeed there. Nardi Contreras said in a recent interview that Venditte will get his chance to play in the major leagues somewhere eventually. I am inclined to agree with Nardi, and I wish Venditte great success in the future, regardless of what team he ends up playing for. I’d love to see him play for the Yankees some day, and hopefully that day will come.