Jonny Venters… Boy does that name sound familiar.
If that wasn’t your first thought, it should’ve been. If it wasn’t, that’s okay too.
In the second installment of ‘So You’re Saying There’s A Chance,’ we take a look at the former Atlanta Braves relief ace and how he got here.
From 2010-12, Venters was one of the top setup men in all of baseball, boasting a 2.23 ERA and a 10.1 K/9. With a high 90’s fastball and a devastating slider, he had more than one way to get you out. During that time, nobody came out of the bullpen more times than ‘Everyday Jonny’ did. If it weren’t for some guy named Craig Kimbrel, he could’ve easily been one of the top closers in the game during that span. The dude was just all kinds of nasty.
But shortly after his peak, came an extreme valley. After the 2012, he underwent his first, erm, second, Tommy John Surgery. His road to recovery seemed next to impossible. Venters, however, was determined.
If the cards weren’t stacked against him enough, he needed Tommy John again in 2014, when the Rays signed him to a two year deal to get him through his rehab to give him yet another chance. All seemed to be okay until he tore his UCL for a fourth time, this time though, not requiring surgery.
So, soon to be 33 with ‘3 1/2’ Tommy John surgeries under his belt, Venters is in camp with the Tampa Bay Rays hoping to make the team as a non roster invitee. How could it happen? A few reasons.
For one, the fastball is still there. Two? he pitched extremely well in Durham last year, posting numbers nearly identical to his major league run. Finally, this could be one of the most historic comebacks in all of baseball, not to mention possibly baseball’s best story of 2018. Of course, that alone is no reason for a guy to make the major league club, and he Rays, championing the analytics, aren’t likely to buy into a story as much as they are results.
Which, by the way, have been impressive so far, albeit in a small sample size.
In two appearances so far this spring, Venters has turned in two scoreless innings. Cash says he will be used often and that he will shorten his rest periods. Cash doesn’t plan to go easy on Venters, and, judging by his determination to get back into major league action, I doubt Venters would have it any other way.