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Venters, after 3 TJ surgeries, pitches for Rays

Lefty, who last appeared in bigs in October 2012, faces one Orioles batter
Special to MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- Jonny Venters came in quickly from the bullpen when Rays manager Kevin Cash called for him to start the bottom of the sixth inning. The left-hander sprinted almost all the way to the mound and was ready when Cash handed him the ball.

It is easy to understand why Venters raced in. After all, he'd been waiting for this moment for a long time.

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BALTIMORE -- Jonny Venters came in quickly from the bullpen when Rays manager Kevin Cash called for him to start the bottom of the sixth inning. The left-hander sprinted almost all the way to the mound and was ready when Cash handed him the ball.

It is easy to understand why Venters raced in. After all, he'd been waiting for this moment for a long time.

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This was the first time the 33-year-old left-hander appeared in the Major Leagues since pitching for the Braves in the 2012 National League Wild Card Game. He went through Tommy John surgeries in 2013 and 2014, plus what he likes to call a "half" procedure in 2016. The 2011 All-Star also had the surgery in 2005.

Venters pitched to one batter Wednesday, getting Chris Davis to ground out after four pitches -- three sliders and a fastball -- in the Rays' 8-4 win. The veteran pitcher admitted to feeling some emotion while running into the game.

"My nerves were flowing, and I was excited and nervous," Venters said. "[My] heart was racing."

Video: TB@BAL: Jonny Venters on long-awaited return to mound

Based on Jon Roegele's oft-cited Tommy John surgery database, Venters became the first pitcher to come back from three Tommy John procedures to pitch in the Majors. Though Jose Rijo and Jason Isringhausen are often cited to have had three Tommy Johns apiece, Roegele does not recognize either pitcher as a three-time recipient of the surgery, because, for each guy, at least one of the surgeries addressed a flexor tendon tear, not a UCL tear. (You can read more about Venters' "half-Tommy John" here.)

Venters knew he would have a game on Wednesday. He was just expecting to be pitching for Triple-A Durham and not the Tampa Bay Rays. Venters had a 10:30 a.m. ET game in Durham, N.C., and during a rain delay, he got word that the Rays selected his contract, and he quickly flew to Baltimore. What made this night even better is that his family was able to fly in and saw his return to the Major Leagues.

"It was an amazing experience just to get out there," Venters said. "It was a special thing that I'll never forget the rest of my life. Dream come true, really."

The experience also made others in the Tampa Bay clubhouse happy because the Rays know what he has been through and appreciate his kind personality.

"He's just an awesome guy," teammate Daniel Robertson said. "You can't [be a] better person than that. His attitude, his look on life, how good of a person he is; he's top-notch in the game. It's really a feel-good story."

Cash felt just as happy that Venters made it back and loved giving him the ball for that one batter.

"I thought it was perfect," Cash said. "It worked out where he came in, got a big out at the time with a two-run lead for us. Pretty exciting to be able to put him in the game."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com based in Baltimore.

Tampa Bay Rays, Jonny Venters