MESA, Ariz. –- It takes everyone some time to make sense of things when Pat Venditte enters a game to pitch.
Cubs switch hitter Dexter Fowler looked out toward the mound in the third inning Thursday, not sure how to take his warm-up swings to prepare for the A’s ambidextrous pitcher.
“I was swinging left-handed because he was throwing right-handed,” Fowler said. “Then he gets up there and switches. They threw me another helmet.”
Venditte declared he would pitch left-handed to Fowler -– rules say a switch pitcher must declare first when facing a switch hitter –- so Fowler dug in from the right side and wound up grounding out to second.
Venditte delivered a 1-2-3 inning and has now retired all five hitters he’s faced in two appearances this spring. Notably, A’s manager Bob Melvin has inserted him into games early enough that he’s facing legitimate major league hitters and having success.
“It’s nice to be able to come out here and compete and show them what I have,” said Venditte, a non-roster invitee to camp. “Fortunately, I’ve been throwing strikes and getting ahead, which is what I want to do.”
Catcher Luke Carlin, who was behind the plate for Venditte’s stint, gets a kick out of the temporary confusion that ensues when he takes the mound.
“It’s funny how he catches people off-guard every time,” Carlin said. “Even the umpire had to make sure he had the rule down.”
The A’s and Cubs played to a 2-2 tie at Sloan Park in a game called after nine innings, which is a common occurrence in spring training as an effort to conserve pitching.
FLASHING LEATHER: What an assist A’s starter Barry Zito got on his very first batter. Fowler scorched a ball toward third baseman Brett Lawrie, who managed to stop the ball without losing any teeth and threw across the diamond for the out.
“When you’re a left-handed pitcher, third basemen a lot of times are your best friend over there,” Melvin said.
DROPPING LUMBER: Rangel Ravelo, a 22-year-old corner infielder acquired from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija deal, doubled in the tying run in the eighth inning in his first at-bat of the spring. He’s a first baseman slated to start the season at Triple-A Nashville, and the A’s also want to get a look at him at third base.
FAMILIAR FACE: Ryan Sweeney started at DH for the Cubs and went 1-for-2 with a single to right field off Zito. Sweeney played for Oakland from 2008-11 before he and closer Andrew Bailey were sent to Boston in the trade that brought Josh Reddick to the A’s. The Red Sox released him in March 2013 and Sweeney signed with the Cubs.
ODDS AND ENDS: Ben Zobrist doubled and has three extra base hits in four at-bats this spring spread over two games. … Carlin drove in the A’s first run in the seventh with a single that scored Billy Burns. … Tyler Clippard, a candidate to be the closer until Sean Doolittle returns from a shoulder injury, threw a scoreless inning in his A’s debut and did well to escape unscored upon after putting two runners aboard with one out. “Clippard’s filthy,” Carlin said.