Jonny Venters defied the odds when he returned to the Major League level this season, and now he will have a chance to return to the Braves' bullpen.
The Braves added some veteran depth to the bullpen late Thursday night when they acquired Venters from the Rays in exchange for international slot money. The veteran left-handed reliever became a fan favorite as he teamed with Craig Kimbrel and Eric O'Flaherty to give Atlanta arguably the game's best late-inning trio during the early portion of this decade.
"Whenever you are acquiring players, you are looking at talent first and then the makeup, and the makeup was pretty quick, so we knew," said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. "I brought it up to [manager Brian Snitker], and he said yes before Venters came out of my mouth. He was like, 'Yep. Done.' Everyone really likes him. He's had a reputation as one of the good guys in the game, so that's obviously a nice add. But make no mistake, we think against a lefty with his stuff and the sink and slider that he can do a solid job for us."
Looking to add some depth to their 'pen, the Braves have reunited with Venters, who has posted a 3.86 ERA and limited opponents to a .212 batting average in 14 innings for the Rays this year. His late-April return to the Majors was celebrated because he has undergone what he terms as 3 1/2 Tommy John surgeries.
"He just came back off the DL, but his stuff's been good," said Anthopoulos. "Atlanta knows him very well. Velocity is good, sink is outstanding, and that's reflected in the ground-ball rate -- it's still very high. Just looking at the numbers against left-handers, it's real strong. We could use some help from the left side and a guy who can get some ground balls and some swing and miss from the left side with good stuff and give him a shot."
This season, left-handed hitters are hitting just .167 off Venters. Right-handed hitters, however, are batting .250.
Venters has proven to be a determined competitor since the Braves drafted him in the 30th round in 2003. The 33-year-old southpaw did not debut for Atlanta until 2010, But he made an immediate impact and quickly established himself as one of the game's most dominant relievers.
While making 230 appearances for the Braves from 2010-12, he posted a 2.32 ERA. He underwent his second Tommy John surgery during the early portion of the 2013 season and did not pitch in the Majors again until the Rays brought him up on April 25.