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Braves 9, Yankees 6

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP)

Pat Venditte can see why he's such a curiosity. It's not everyday that a pitcher throws with both arms.

Venditte showed off his ambidextrous talents for the New York Yankees on Tuesday, giving up one run in 1 1-3 innings during a 9-6 split-squad loss to the Atlanta Braves.

``I understand where it's coming from,'' Venditte said. ``And it's my job to go out there and prove that I can pitch.''

Making his first appearance for the Yankees, Venditte took over for CC Sabathia with two outs in the fifth inning and tossed four warmup pitches with each hand. Venditte switched back and forth, depending on whether he was facing a righty or lefty, and gave up two hits and a walk.

``I think I have to,'' he said. ``I don't have overpowering stuff from either side, so I think I really need this.''

The 24-year-old reliever, who uses a six-finger glove, pitched for two teams in Class A last season and went a combined 4-2 with 22 saves and a 1.87 ERA. He is scheduled to begin the season at Class A Tampa.

Sabathia said he knew the Yankees had an ambidextrous pitcher in their organization, but did a double take when Venditte took the mound.

``I've never seen anything like that,'' Sabathia said. ``I felt like we kept changing pitchers before I figured out what was happening.''

If he makes the majors, Venditte wouldn't be the first pitcher to throw as a left-hander and right-hander. Greg Harris, who pitched for Cincinnati, Montreal, San Diego, Texas, Philadelphia, Boston and the Yankees from 1981-95, was a righty throughout his career. He pitched from the left side for two batters in the second-to-last game of his career.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi had said he wanted to watch Venditte throw this spring and asked that the pitcher be sent over from the minor league complex for an exhibition game.

Venditte started out as a righty in the fifth and retired Yunel Escobar on a grounder to end the inning.

In the sixth, Venditte pitched right-handed to Matt Diaz and gave up a single. Venditte shifted to a lefty and fielded Nate McLouth's sacrifice bunt.

Later in the inning, switch-hitter Brooks Conrad came to the plate and by rule Venditte had to declare in advance how he would pitch. He went righty, Conrad batted lefty and grounded out.

Venditte complimented catcher Jorge Posada.

``Jorge did a good job of keeping me calm,'' he said.

Sabathia tuned up for his start in the major league opener Sunday night at Boston, allowing five runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings. He has a 7.23 ERA this spring.

Sabathia said he isn't concerned about his high ERA.

``I am just trying to pitch my game,'' he said. ``I'll work on my adjustments in the spring a little different than a regular season game.''

The World Series champions open the season against the Red Sox.

``That's what I am preparing for,'' Sabathia said. ``Sunday night at Fenway will be crazy like it always is at Fenway. I'll be ready.''

Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami pitched five innings, allowing five hits and one earned run. He was scheduled to go longer but he developed a blister on his right index finger and manager Bobby Cox decided to take him out as a precaution.

It was the final spring training game for Kawakami, who is expected to pitch in a minor league game next week before making his first start of the season, April 11 at San Francisco.

``He has a zippy slider this year,'' Cox said. ``When he gets his sinker going he's going to be something.''

Clint Sammons hit his first homer of the spring in the fourth off Sabathia. Troy Glaus upped his spring average to .372 with two doubles and Melky Cabrera also had two hits against his former teammates.

Nick Swisher and Posada homered for the Yankees.

Tagged: Yankees, Braves

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