Refreshed Venters is something to see

DARK STAR, Fla. – Jonny Venters says he didn’t realize it, but maybe he just convinced himself he wasn’t tired last fall, because he didn’t want to let anyone down during the stretch drive of his outstanding 2010 rookie season.

Whatever the reason, it’s only now, as he puts the finishing touches on an overwhelming spring performance in which he’s rarely allowed a batter to reach base, that Venters concedes he was tired last fall.

Venters (left) and Kimbrel will enter the season as co-closers for manager Fredi Gonzalez. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Venters (left) and Kimbrel will enter the season as co-closers for manager Fredi Gonzalez. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

“Everyday Jonny” said Wednesday that an offseason of rest had served him well, and I asked if he even realized how tired he was late last season.

“I didn’t,” he said, then smiled. “My body was sore for two weeks.”

And now?

“Everything feels great,” said Venters, who has

There’s a side of baseball that most of us, even those who cover the sport, aren’t fully aware of. We know it’s a helluva grind, traveling and playing a 162-game schedule and – they hope – a postseason, not to mention seven weeks of spring training.

But many don’t realize what it takes to get a lot of these guys through, especially every-day players and hard-throwing reliever pitchers like Venters who rank among the league leaders in number of appearances and innings pitched.

“When you quit taking those anti-inflammatories after the season, you can barely walk,” said Venters, who turned 26 last week.

The Pikeville, Ky., native has pitched professionally since he was 19. He did the grueling rehab after Tommy John elbow surgery that sidelined him for the 2006 season, then spent the next three seasons working his way up the Braves’ ladder.

He has paid dues.

But he had never experienced anything quite like his first major league season. Actually, most relief pitchers never do what Venters did in 2010.

Let’s reflect, for a moment, on the numbers he put up:

Venters had a 1.95 ERA in 83 innings over 79 appearances, tied for the sixth-best ERA among NL relievers and the third-most innings among relievers in either league. (Keep in mind, he wasn’t brought up from Triple-A until two weeks into the season and made his major league debut on April 17).

He had 93 strikeouts, tied with Giants closer Brian Wilson for fifth-most among major league relievers.

Venters’ .204 opponents’ average included .169 with runners on base, the second-best mark among all qualifying major league pitchers. He trailed only Cubs closer Carlos Marmol (.163) in that category, and the next-lowest marks belonged to starters Jonathan Sanchez (.185) of the Giants and Roy Oswalt (.187) of the Astros/Phillies.

Venters had a 1.93 ERA in day games, and a 1.96 ERA in night games. Had a .198 opponents’ average and .570 OPS against lefty hitters, and .207/.544 against righties.

He had a .201 opponents’ average and .312 OBP at home, .207/.311 on the road.

He was a machine. And to think, he produced those totals despite wearing down some late from his workload.

The “Everyday Jonny” tag we gave him was barely an exaggeration.

From June 25 to Aug. 25, Venters pitched in 34 of 54 Braves games. July 24 to Aug. 25, he pitched in 20 of 31 games — and that’s not pitching to one or two batters. Venters worked 21-1/3 innings in 20 games over that one-month-plus-one-day stretch.

Did he wear down? You be the judge:

From May 5 to Aug. 11, Venters was ridiculously good, posting a 0.92 ERA and .164 opponents’ average in 47 appearances, allowing 27 hits and 18 walks with 56 strikeouts in 49 innings. Atlanta was 36-11 in those games.

In his 26 appearances after Aug. 11, Venters had a 4.07 ERA and .277 opponents’ average, allowing 28 hits and 13 walks with 31 strikeouts in 24-1/3 innings. The Braves were 16-10 in those games.

He also pitched in all four games in the division series against San Francisco, allowing seven hits and no walks with eight strikeouts in 5-1/3 scoreless innings.

Then he shut it down. Didn’t pick up a ball for most of the winter.

And now … he’s a beast.

Venters has been throwing darting sinkers and 94-mph cannonball-heavy sinkers, making a lot of hitters look helpless this spring.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said from the outset of camp that he intended to use Venters and hard-throwing rookie righty Craig Kimbrel as co-closers this season, possibly all season but at least until it looked like one or the other should be the primary closer.

Right now, they’re looking just about equally capable of handling it.

Venters (left) running with veteran reliever Scott Linebrink earlier this spring.

Venters (left) running with veteran reliever Scott Linebrink earlier this spring.

It’s only spring training, but Venters has been dominant, allowing two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in nine scoreless innings, with a .069 opponents’ average.

Kimbrel has a .194 opponents’ average, and that’s despite a couple of rough early outing. In his past seven innings, Kimbrel has allowed one hit and one walk with nine strikeouts.

Braves split-squad lineup vs. PHI: 1. Prado LF, 2. McLouth CF, 3. McCann C, 4. Ramirez RF, 5. Freeman 1B, 6. Conrad 2B, 7. Lucas SS, 8. Hicks 3B, 9. Lopez RH

Braves split-squad lineup vs. DET: 1. Gonzalez SS, 2. Heyward RF, 3, Chipper 3B, 4. Uggla 2B, 5. Hinske 1B, 6. Ross C, 7. Mather LF, 8. Young CF, 9. Beachy RH.

♣ OK, let’s get this posted, since the Braves are playing the Phillies at 1:05 p.m. and I know a lot of you will be watching that game on ESPN. We’re here at Dark Star. It would’ve been impossible to get back from the day game through Tampa Traffic before the first pitch here, even if we didn’t need to be here for possible news on Jair Jurrjens.

Oh, yeah – we could know something about Jurrjens after the clubhouse opens at 1 p.m. Or, he might just say it feels better today but they’re having him rest a day or two before testing it in the bullpen. So we’ll see.

Did I mention we saw The Lincoln Lawyer last week when I was back in Atlanta? I’d read good reviews, so I went. And guess what? It’s good/real good. Matthew McConaughey’s best lead role, far and away, in at least a decade (other than his small role as a too-cool agent in Tropic Thunder, it’s his first part in any really good movie in that period, at least that I can think of.)

OK, let’s close with one more from the Grinderman 2 album I’ve been wearing out down here on drives across this flat, sun-bleached state. This is one of the best tunes on a terrific CD, and you can see a video for it here, and a live performance of the song here. The more I play it, the more I think Grinderman 2 was right there with Black KeysBrothers as best albums of 2010.

grinderman

“PALACES OF MONTEZUMA” by Grinderman (Nick Cave)

Psychedelic invocations
Of Mata Hari at the station
I give to you
A Java princess of Hindu Birth
A woman of flesh a child of earth
I give to you
The hanging gardens of Babylon
Miles Davis the black unicorn
I give to you
The Palaces of Montezuma
And the Gardens of Akbar’s tomb
I give to you
The spider Goddess and the Needle Boy
The slave-dwarves they employ
I give to you
A custard-coloured super-dream
Of Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen
I give to you

C’mon baby, let’s get out of the cold
And give me, give me, give me your precious love for me to hold

The epic of Gilgamesh
A pretty little black A-line dress
I give to you
The spinal cord of JFK
Wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligee
I give to you
I want nothing in return
Just the softest little breathless word
I ask of you
A word contained in a grain of sand
That can barely walk can’t even stand
I ask of you

Oh c’mon baby, let’s get out of the cold
And gimme gimme gimme your precious love for me to hold
C’mon baby come out of the cold
And gimme gimme gimme your precious love for me to hold

1,282 comments Add your comment

kelly

March 25th, 2011
1:03 pm

ColoradoBravesFan

March 25th, 2011
1:03 pm

Beat the Phillies..

Total Grace

March 25th, 2011
1:04 pm

BFChris26

March 25th, 2011
1:07 pm

Lets go Braves!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:07 pm

Marteeen lines to Ibanez to open the game…

McFann Ô Ô

March 25th, 2011
1:09 pm

Did someone say Boog is doing the game???

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:10 pm

Nate grounds out, McCann strikes out…

cabravesfan

March 25th, 2011
1:10 pm

McFann-

Yes! It’s BOOG!

McFann Ô Ô

March 25th, 2011
1:11 pm

Oooo…glad I missed that inning. :P

McFann Ô Ô

March 25th, 2011
1:11 pm

cabravesfan

YAY! It’ll be on in just a bit! :D

Total Grace

March 25th, 2011
1:12 pm

Enter your comments here

BFChris26

March 25th, 2011
1:12 pm

McFann Ô Ô

March 25th, 2011
1:12 pm

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:12 pm

Victorino leading off against Lopez – long fly out to Ramirez in right…

Total Grace

March 25th, 2011
1:13 pm

Did anybody hear Phil Niekro and Tyler Perry are looking to buy the braves?

zorro

March 25th, 2011
1:13 pm

thanks for the new bloggage, dob

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:14 pm

Castillo walks…

LTBF

March 25th, 2011
1:18 pm

Hey Great it is Boog, now I will get off, don’t post during games

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:18 pm

Rollins 2 run HR to right…

GTSteve

March 25th, 2011
1:18 pm

BFChris26

March 25th, 2011
1:18 pm

Dang it. Rollins HR.

Mike S

March 25th, 2011
1:18 pm

Yikes. That ball was crushed

LTBF

March 25th, 2011
1:19 pm

Wish Boog would come back to us, he was great with Joe.

MB

March 25th, 2011
1:19 pm

Lopez looks pretty useless.

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:19 pm

Howard long fly out to left…

gcs

March 25th, 2011
1:20 pm

Did the Braves send Minor to AAA so Lopez could stay??

.

Feeanch

March 25th, 2011
1:20 pm

Damn I miss boog!

ColoradoBravesFan

March 25th, 2011
1:21 pm

Boo Rollins…

Justafan

March 25th, 2011
1:21 pm

LOPEZ down 2-0 in 1st

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:21 pm

Polanco grounds out to Lucas at short…

MB

March 25th, 2011
1:21 pm

I sure hope this guy Lopez is let go. His pitches look very hittable, and they are being hit hard. He better not make the team just because he’s a veteran.

Felix Millan

March 25th, 2011
1:21 pm

I, too, miss Boog.

BFChris26

March 25th, 2011
1:21 pm

Snoop Dog song lol.

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:21 pm

Phillies lead 2-0 after the first…

cabravesfan

March 25th, 2011
1:22 pm

gcs-

I think the only reason Lopez is still here is they need an extra arm for the split squad game- I would not be concerned that he will make the team

JC from DR!

March 25th, 2011
1:23 pm

Don’t know if it’s just me.. but I find the Phillies so arrogant and disgusting…

Justafan

March 25th, 2011
1:23 pm

Sign above stands on 1b side “Frenchy”..LOL

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:23 pm

Wilkin Ramirez leading off, followed by Freddie and Brooks…

MB

March 25th, 2011
1:24 pm

Here’s to hoping that Bobby didn’t convince Fredi to continue his longstanding tradition of having at least one useless pitcher on the team.

JC from DR!

March 25th, 2011
1:25 pm

Come on, Ramirez!

cabravesfan

March 25th, 2011
1:26 pm

Classy Philly (even in Clearwater)- did anyone else notice they have Hooters Girls as their ballgirls?

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:26 pm

Ramirez grounds out to Polanco…

Trey

March 25th, 2011
1:26 pm

Justafan

March 25th, 2011
1:26 pm

Did you see the ball girl on 1st base line. WOW!

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:27 pm

Freddie check swings into a catcher to first ground out…

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:27 pm

Brooks flies to right to end the inning…

cabravesfan

March 25th, 2011
1:27 pm

Apparently Justafan noticed… ;)

JC from DR!

March 25th, 2011
1:28 pm

A half-naked ball girl.

LAG

March 25th, 2011
1:29 pm

cabravesfan – I saw that too. I was thinking “those are shorter than normal ballgirl shorts… oh, that explains it.”

ColoradoBravesFan

March 25th, 2011
1:29 pm

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:30 pm

Ibanez strikes out…

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:31 pm

Single for Francisco…

JC from DR!

March 25th, 2011
1:32 pm

Even Greg Norton can hit just by wearing a Phillies uniform..

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:32 pm

For those of you working and with access, Gameday is only a few seconds behind the TV right now…

Jimmy

March 25th, 2011
1:32 pm

Looked like a Hooters girl in uniform.
Home today watching on ESPN.
But for those not watching…a big thanks to VJ!

keylargo

March 25th, 2011
1:32 pm

I see the “idiot rant subject” today will be Rodrigo Lopez

cabravesfan

March 25th, 2011
1:33 pm

Jimmy-

It was a Hooters Girl

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:35 pm

Schneider high pop out to Conrad at 2nd – 2 down…

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:36 pm

Lopez gets Blanton on strikes – 2nd inning over, still 2-0 Phillies…

dcbrave

March 25th, 2011
1:36 pm

mlb.com has free video access today also

Hugo Z Hackenbush

March 25th, 2011
1:37 pm

Boog, we hardly knew ye…

Fredi's Fu Manchu

March 25th, 2011
1:38 pm

Cox’ handling of Venters last year was criminal. “everyday” agent should be ashamed he allowed it to happen

Jimmy

March 25th, 2011
1:39 pm

cabraves – opps. I just read your post. Got here late.

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:40 pm

Ed Lucas leads off with a long at bat – flies out to right…

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:42 pm

Brandon Hicks strikes out…

AdirondackDave

March 25th, 2011
1:42 pm

DOB — Agree with you. We saw “Lincoln Lawyer” last night and it was excellent. Magnetic story line and Mathew McConaughey was outstanding. Academy Award consideration there for sure.

McFann Ô Ô

March 25th, 2011
1:43 pm

BFChris26

March 25th, 2011
1:44 pm

Rodrigo Lopez breaks up perfect game/no hitter :lol:

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:44 pm

Rodrigo Lopez with the first hit – single to right…

BFChris26

March 25th, 2011
1:44 pm

Prado HR here >_>

BFChris26

March 25th, 2011
1:44 pm

Or not >_>

But it will do.

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:44 pm

Marteen sneaks a single past Rollins – 1st and 2nd…

wheelz007

March 25th, 2011
1:45 pm

JC from DR!

March 25th, 2011
1:45 pm

Give me a long ball, Nate!

GTSteve

March 25th, 2011
1:46 pm

Strike Zone looks a little inconsistent today

Jesse Stone

March 25th, 2011
1:47 pm

Close to the ballpark in Clearwater is a pub called the Tilted Kilt. It is a Hooters-esque place where the very hot waitresses wear short kilts. They man a beer stand in the rightfield corner during games in Clearwater.

BFChris26

March 25th, 2011
1:48 pm

McLouth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

GTSteve

March 25th, 2011
1:48 pm

Robert

March 25th, 2011
1:48 pm

So basically, what you just said, was that Bobby Cox abused Johnny Venters

McFann Ô Ô

March 25th, 2011
1:48 pm

P'cola Brave

March 25th, 2011
1:48 pm

three singles in a row. Loaded w/ two out.

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:48 pm

Nate fouls off several pitches and sneaks it past Howard for a hit – bases loaded!

JC from DR!

March 25th, 2011
1:48 pm

That’s what Im talking about!

Now please, Mac, DO SOMETHING!

Fredi's Fu Manchu

March 25th, 2011
1:49 pm

Nova Scotia Steve

March 25th, 2011
1:49 pm

Justafan – Did you see the ball girl on 1st base line. WOW!

Yes and yes. Just getting back from the washroom 8O

Threadkiller

March 25th, 2011
1:49 pm

No Robert, I think Venters also had something to do with it!

JC from DR!

March 25th, 2011
1:49 pm

He missed that by a mile!

Mac looks awful at the plate :S

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:50 pm

BMac grounds to first…

P-Town Brave ©

March 25th, 2011
1:50 pm

That damn piece of crap Brian McCann :roll:

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:50 pm

Braves trail 2-0, midway through the thhird…

Trey

March 25th, 2011
1:50 pm

How is it Robert gets banned and then comes back talking about Robert Cox? Does he never learn?

McFann Ô Ô

March 25th, 2011
1:50 pm

We need to get Boog to not talk nice about McCann while he’s batting. :lol:

Trey

March 25th, 2011
1:51 pm

Man, the Braves are having trouble scoring with the bases loaded. McCann had to bring it over from last season. All McCann’s fault!

JeanE

March 25th, 2011
1:51 pm

I’m late to these comments but I miss Boog! And I hadn’t seen Mac ’til today and he really does look so slim! Are the ballgirls from Hooters today?

Murph

March 25th, 2011
1:52 pm

McCann needs to put in his hitting contacts… the ones he’s using just ain’t working.

McFann Ô Ô

March 25th, 2011
1:52 pm

Joe Blanton must really be struggling today, though—hasn’t given up a hit to BMac in two whole ABs! You OK, Joe? :(

Jesse Stone

March 25th, 2011
1:53 pm

Clearwater always uses ballgirls from Hooters

ColoradoBravesFan

March 25th, 2011
1:53 pm

Bobby Cox is not the manager of the Braves…. move on. Lots to love about this Braves squad.

Brava

March 25th, 2011
1:53 pm

McCann needs to be sent down to Gwinnett.

Venice Jim

March 25th, 2011
1:54 pm

Victorino leads off with a line drive to Conrad…

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