Jonny Venters will likely rejoin the Braves’ bullpen at the beginning of next week, and the left-hander believes he’ll soon be ready to pitch like his old self.
That is, like the guy who was one of the majors’ best relievers during the 2010-2011 seasons, rather than the one who struggled mightily for two months this year before going on the 15-day disabled list July 5 with elbow inflammation.
“I think it was a good chance to get a mental break,” said Venters, who was asked if he were confident about a return to form. “Yeah, actually very confident. Kind of a clean slate. I kind of started from scratch with my delivery, too. I eliminated everything that I was doing, that I was working on, and just got back to the basics.”
Venters has a 4.45 ERA in 40 appearances this season, after posting a 1.89 ERA in 164 appearances during his first two seasons. He had a a 6.08 ERA and .343 opponents’ average in 31 appearances beginning May 1, and he allowed six homers in 21 innings over his last 28, after allowing just three homers in 182-1/3 innings over his previous 176 appearances.
After the Braves announced July 5 he was going on the DL with an inpingement in his elbow, Venters said he’d had discomfort “off and on” during the season. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said the pitcher only mentioned the elbow being a problem in the last couple of days before he went on the DL.
Venters thinks all the adjustments he was making to try to get out of his slump ultimately caused the elbow soreness.
“The way I was throwing, I was constantly changing things,” he said. “I’d like to throw the way I’m supposed to throw.”
He was examined before going on the DL, and the elbow was said to be stable and didn’t require an MRI.
He threw 20 fastballs in a Saturday bullpen session, his first time on the mound since going on the DL. On Tuesday, Venters threw a full bullpen, mixing in breaking balls with fastballs. Again, no discomfort.
He’s eligible to come off the DL Friday, but Gonzalez said Venters would throw an inning or two for Gwinnett before he’s activated. The Triple-A team is out of town until a weekend series that begins Friday.
In addition to playing catch and throwing twice in the bullpen, Venters much of his DL time poring over videotape and working to smooth out his pitching mechanics. He’s also taken time to relax and get himself back into a better state mentally.
“I was definitely putting some stress and pressure on myself, so it was good to kind of take a step back, kind of regroup, start fresh a little bit,” he said Tuesday, while dribbling and passing a miniature rubber basketball through his legs during a recreational clubhouse game of hoops with Martin Prado.
“I feel like I’ve gotten back to more of what I was doing when I was successful,” he said. “It’s been good.”