Closing combo of Venters, Kimbrel rounding into form

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez reiterated Friday that he was planning to open the season with Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters sharing the closer’s role.

The two relievers looked to be in lockstep against the Mets as well, each pitching scoreless innings. They both faced a little strife and recovered – Venters from his first real jam of spring training and Kimbrel from a one-out double.

“It’s good to see those guys pitch out of those situations,” Gonzalez said.

For Venters, it was a chance to right himself on the fly, after throwing seven straight balls to start the seventh inning. He gave up a leadoff walk and a single – having previously allowed only one hit and one walk in his first seven innings of spring training, all scoreless.

“I went back to my normal thing, said ‘Just screw it, throw as hard as I can,’” Venters said. “When I start to think a lot out there is when I get in trouble. I’ve just got to go out there and make guys hit my stuff.”

For Kimbrel, who struck out the last two batters he faced, it was an indication that he’s beginning to round into shape. After giving up three runs in his first three outings, Kimbrel has thrown four straight scoreless innings.

“I’m getting closer,” Kimbrel said. “I’m never going to be exactly where I want to be. I feel good. I feel like I’m ready for the season to get here.”

Gonzalez said the benefit to using two closers, especially early in the season, is he can match the left-handed Venters up against some of the lefty-dominant lineups in the N.L. East. And with two young arms, he doesn’t want to make a habit out of throwing either one three and four days in a row.

“In a perfect world you’d like to name one guy but I can’t sit here and say May 15 is going to be the day or June 20,” Gonzalez said. “Maybe we’ll go the whole way. It’s not a bad thing. It really isn’t.”

For their part, both Venters and Kimbrel are comfortable with the plan, and both are prepared to take the ball.

“Craig’s got a crazy arm and I expect he’ll be running out there for the ninth most times,” Venters said. “But if they stick me in there I’m comfortable with it, I feel good about it. I feel like I have a good mentality for it. I like to go right at guys and see what happens.”

25 comments Add your comment

Him Tudson

March 18th, 2011
5:58 pm

I hope they give Craig precedence over Jonny in the ninth, at least to start with. He’s got true closer’s stuff even if he’s not “seasoned” yet.

Joe Blow

March 18th, 2011
5:59 pm

FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

chris

March 18th, 2011
6:05 pm

the dude looked seasoned in the playoffs last year. he knows he doesnt have to make the team this year with his performance. he didnt throw at all this winter, every game though he is starting to bring it more and more but very slowly.

JohnNDaytona

March 18th, 2011
7:12 pm

Great screen name for someone with a junior high school mentality to scream 1st. Only momma’s boy’s would think that was cool.

predsjack from Smashville

March 18th, 2011
7:16 pm

….And not be 1st

JohnNDaytona

March 18th, 2011
7:17 pm

I think having both Venters and Kimbrel with the mind set that they both are going to be closing helps take pressure off each of them.

JohnNDaytona

March 18th, 2011
7:26 pm

I’m a little old school so it doesn’t matter to me if they’re first or not, the whole deal is juvenile.

DaveinNEPA

March 18th, 2011
7:54 pm

I don’t have a problem with either guy doing the closing.

I think this pen has a chance to be as good or even a little better than last years providing Fredi only uses Sherrill against lefty hitters and keeps Martinez over Proctor.

Rupert

March 18th, 2011
8:19 pm

I don’t mind which guy closes. Personally, I lime Kimbrel because he seems to get more K’s, but Venters can still strike you out too. I would rather there be a set guy to close so he and the rest of the pen know their role. When you vary it up, it can work, but it just flows better when everyone knows what is expected of them. Give on of them a shot and then see how he does.

What???

March 18th, 2011
8:20 pm

I don’t know why anyone would oppose using Venters in the closer’s role. The guy was lights out last year – nasty stuff, good head.

Mr. T

March 18th, 2011
8:35 pm

I approve of Venters. I love how he hit a few guys and had to go before the man about it. But I like that Kimbrel kid too. He is country strong.

Heyna

March 18th, 2011
10:58 pm

I like this two closer deal. Gives them flexibility to make the best decision for the situation and not be beholden to traditional thinking.

Adam Tolle

March 18th, 2011
11:13 pm

No one who is “old school” comments on blogs

Senator Blutarski

March 19th, 2011
12:20 am

Sounds prudent not to be locked into the mentality that “the closer” can only be one guy. The two young guns are quite a duo.

Ryno

March 19th, 2011
2:06 am

1st – SWEET! YES! SUCK IT!

Ryno

March 19th, 2011
2:07 am

dang it dial up

tooslim73

March 19th, 2011
6:41 am

Ryno

…that’s the worst failed firstie I have ever seen, on the entire internet. You were eight hours late.

Your fired.

TeheranTime

March 19th, 2011
8:04 am

Can I say “first” just for the fun of it?

Jake

March 19th, 2011
8:11 am

Having two closers rather than one is a great scenario. It’s much less likely that there will be the kind of burnout, injuries and tired arms we had when Cox was managing.

Trojan

March 19th, 2011
8:53 am

I hope both Vetters and Kimbrel do well. I also hope that Wagner comes back in July and makes our bullpen the deepest and best in MLB.

[...] start the season with a left-handed pitcher Jonny Venters, who was born in Pikeville, sharing the closer role with right-handed pitcher Craig [...]

Dennis Reynolds

March 19th, 2011
11:34 am

I met Marquis Grissom last night at a little league baseball game. Thought it was pretty cool.
Asked him what it felt like to catch the last out of the World Series.

Wolb Eoj

March 19th, 2011
7:54 pm

LAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Most Added and Dropped Pitchers

March 23rd, 2011
6:01 am

[...] With news that he will be sharing the closers role with Craig Kimbrel, Venters ownership is beginning to climb. Even if he wasn’t projected to get saves he would still be worth owning after finishing last year with a 1.95 ERA and a 10.08 K/9. However, closers by committee generally don’t last and I expect Kimbrel to take the job and run with it. His K/9 of 17.42 was crazy high last year and he does have closing experience in the minor leagues while Venters does not. It’s also worth noting that Venters himself thinks Kimbrel will get the most save opportunities. [...]

[...] preseason favorite to replace Wagner this year, Fredi Gonzalez threw a wrench in the works earlier this month and said he’s going to use both Kimbrel and Jonny Venters in [...]

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