Call to arms: Ambidextrous Venditte shines in debut

Call to arms: Ambidextrous Venditte shines in debut

ARLINGTON -- After a rough start by Hisashi Iwakuma, the Mariners literally switched things up on the Rangers in Monday's 6-3 series-opening loss, with ambidextrous reliever Pat Venditte striking out a career-best five in a three-inning relief stint.

Venditte came on in the fourth inning after Iwakuma fell behind, 5-1, and the unique 31-year-old hurler stemmed the tide as he allowed just one hit and one run in tying the longest outing he's had in his brief time in the Majors over the past two years with the A's, Blue Jays and now Mariners.

Acquired from Toronto in early August and promoted from Triple-A on Saturday, Venditte impressed in his first foray with the Mariners.

"You want to show these guys that you can get outs," he said. "When you come in throwing with both hands, for the guys that haven't seen you before, you want to show them that you're here to win. They'll see what I'm about the next month here, but to get off on the right foot was big."

Manager Scott Servais certainly liked what he saw in the 54-pitch outing from his versatile new reliever.

"Venditte did a great job mixing and matching and doing what he does," Servais said. "It's pretty remarkable when you sit there and watch how he does it."

Venditte, who had a 4.58 ERA in 34 prior appearances with Oakland and Toronto, wasted no time making his mark as he struck out the first two batters he faced, the right-handed Elvis Andrus using his right arm and then the lefty-swinging Nomar Mazara with his left.

He wound up notching three strikeouts with his right arm and two with his left, with the lone hit a double by right-handed-hitting Adrian Beltre when he was pitching right-handed. All that should be encouraging to the Mariners, who felt he might be used primarily as a left-handed specialist when they acquired him.

Beltre wears helmet backwards

"I was getting ahead," he said of his strikeout success. "And maybe some different looks from the right side. I came from over the top a little more than I have in the Majors before and that was something that was working for me a little bit tonight.

"It's the first one of I hope many successful outings against righties. But really, no matter if they're lefty or righty, in the moment you've got to get them out to help the guys."

The Rangers lineup alternates left- and right-handed hitters throughout, so Venditte was switching back-and-forth nearly every at-bat. But instead of making that hard to get in a groove, he said it helps.

"It's actually a little more conducive when you have right-left, right-left like that," he said. "If you have seven righties stacked in a lineup, you could go 30 or 40 minutes without throwing a pitch left-handed. So it helps me a bit when it's staggered like that."

Venditte faced Carlos Beltran, the Rangers' lone switch-hitter, from the right side, a decision Servais made before the game based on Beltran's superior splits hitting right. Beltran flipped to the left and struck out, his lone out in a 3-for-4 day.

And on a rough day for the Mariners, Venditte provided one of the lone highlights and helped preserve the bullpen as well after Iwakuma lasted just three frames.

"That's what we were hoping for, so we could save our bullpen a little bit," Servais said. "He did a great job. I was very impressed. I like how he goes about it. He's a very good competitor and it's enough funkiness to both right-handed and left-handers to keep them off balance. We needed him to carry three innings tonight and he certainly did."

Venditte is the first switch-pitcher in the Majors since Greg Harris threw with his opposite hand to two batters in the final game of his lengthy career with the Expos in 1995 and the first full-time ambidextrous thrower since Tony Mullane in 1894 in the dead-ball era.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.