OAKLAND — With the beleaguered Athletics bullpen sporting the worst earned run average in the major leagues, the arrival of Pat Venditte may be just what they need from both sides of the mound.
“It's kind of like having a new toy — one that no one else has,” manager Bob Melvin said of the switch reliever.
Venditte, who has reeled off three scoreless outings since the A's purchased his contract last Friday, is out to prove that he's more than a toy but a weapon.
“I'm glad that Oakland has taken a chance on me and allowed me to show what I can do.” Venditte said at a pregame news conference before the game against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.
The A's have given Venditte his chance, but there are still those around the game who don't know what to make of the 29-year-old rookie.
“I just hope we're not memorized by the fact he can throw with both hands,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “It'll be fun to watch. I hoped he gets in against us. I want to see him. This game is hard enough throwing with one arm.”
Banister got his wish, as Venditte worked an eight-pitch, scoreless ninth inning in a 2-1 loss.
Even though Sonny Gray was saddled with the defeat, the right-hander turned in yet another gem. Gray struck out six in six innings, while allowing two earned runs. He tops the American League with a 1.74 ERA and now allowed two earned runs or less in 10 of his 12 outings.
Venditte posted a 2.37 ERA in the minor leagues for parts of eight seasons. The New York Yankees, who drafted him in the 20th round in 2008, never gave him a shot in the bigs.
“Different organizations have different philosophies on what they think it takes to succeed at the major league level.” Venditte said. “And obviously, the Yankees didn't feel that I could help them over the course of the last few seasons.”Now Venditte is part of an organization that values versatility perhaps more than any other in the league.
“Really, there's no set role for him right now,” Melvin said. “He's just got to be ready for just about anything and I know he is.”
Even as the A's trotted out 18 relievers — including a cameo by first baseman Ike Davis — in the opening months of the season, Venditte never lost faith that the call would come.
“I had no reason to believe that they didn't have some sort of belief in me.” Venditte said. “They put me in 12 or 13 game during spring training. [They] brought me up here for the Bay Bridge Series and I was pitching frequently in Nashville. So, I was very pleased with the opportunity that I've been given.
Venditte doesn't plan to let his opportunity go to waste.
“I've spent such a long time trying to get here,” he said. “It was extremely difficult and it's going to be just as hard, if not harder, to stay. So, that really is where my focus is turned to now. Now that I'm here, I have to have consistent results for a long period time.”
Meanwhile, A.J. Griffin, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to pitch five innings for Triple-A Nashville on Friday. Griffin will likely need two to three more rehab starts after that before possibly rejoining the rotation at the end of this month or the beginning of July.
Davis, who is working his way back from a quad injury, could start a rehab assignment soon.