Jonny Venters found himself in unfamiliar territory Tuesday night when he was called on to pitch the seventh inning with a lead, followed by Eric O’Flaherty in the eighth, as opposed to the other way around.
It was the first time this season Venters pitched before the eighth inning when the Braves were leading.
The way he’s struggled this month – going 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA and three home runs allowed – Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is trying to find a way to ease some pressure on Venters, or at least mix things up, while Venters tries to regain the consistent feel on his sinker.
“You do that with your hitters, move them from one spot to the other,” Gonzalez said. “Whatever it takes to get them going a little bit.”
Venters has seen some progress with the number of ground balls he’s getting, but he is still trying to see adjustments he’s making in the bullpen translate onto the field.
“I need to get out there and pitch – whether it’s down two, up two, 7-6, face a lefty, it doesn’t matter to me,” Venters said. “At this point, I just want to go out there and get into a rhythm and get my stuff to be where I want it to be.”
Dan Uggla was leading the Braves in walks with 34 entering Wednesday night, and on pace for a career-high 108 on the season. He’d been walked 13 times in his previous 10 games, and not coincidentally that dated back to about the time Chipper Jones was injured in Tampa Bay.
With Jones, Freeman and Brian McCann out of the lineup much of that stretch, opposing teams haven’t given Uggla much to hit.
“I’ve never seen him walk this much, and I’ve been with him as long as anybody,” said Gonzalez who managed Uggla in Florida when he walked a career-high 92 times in 2009. “But I think it’s the byproduct of the lineup, when McCann’s not there, Freeman’s not there, Chipper’s not there, they’re going to say ‘Uggla ain’t going to hit us.’ And to Danny’s credit, (he’s said) ‘I’m not going to expand the strike zone and get crazy with it.’”
When Uggla has gotten his pitches to hit, he’s taken advantage, with a two-run home run Saturday against Stephen Strasburg and another three-run shot on Tuesday night against the Cardinals’ Jake Westbrook.