ATLANTA -- In the days leading up to the Braves' move to acquire Jonny Venters from the Rays on Thursday night, decisions were being made over dinner.Braves manager Brian Snitker joked he had a fork in his hand when he received a call from general manager Alex Anthopoulos on the
ATLANTA -- In the days leading up to the Braves' move to acquire Jonny Venters from the Rays on Thursday night, decisions were being made over dinner.
Braves manager Brian Snitker joked he had a fork in his hand when he received a call from general manager Alex Anthopoulos on the team's off-day Wednesday about the possibility of Venters returning to Atlanta. Venters was selected by the Braves in the 30th round of the 2003 Draft and made his Major League debut with the Braves in 2010.
"I brought it up to [Snitker], and he said yes before Venters came out of my mouth," Anthopoulos said. "He was like, 'Yep. Done.'"
Nearly 24 hours later, Venters was sitting down for dinner following the Rays' game in Baltimore.
And for Venters, the call wasn't one he was expecting, even with the non-waiver Trade Deadline looming on Tuesday.
"I didn't have any idea any teams [were interested] or any of that stuff," Venters said. "It was a shock. I mean, they are obviously going to move a lot of guys at the Deadline, but I didn't know if I was in that conversation or not."
Now that he has found his way back to Atlanta, Venters' journey back to the Braves' organization hasn't been an easy one. There was a time when very few thought the left-handed reliever would be able to continue on a mound anywhere -- four elbow surgeries (or 3 1/2 Tommy John surgeries, as he has dubbed it in the past) will do that. Venters underwent his last surgery in September 2016 before making his return to the Majors in late April.
When asked if he thought Venters would come back from that last surgery, Snitker was quick to answer.
"No, I didn't," Snitker said. "It's just amazing to me still that he's pitching. The perseverance, the dedication, everything to get back it's really a testament to him."
Venters debuted with a scoreless sixth inning in the Braves' 4-1 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night, working around a two-out walk to Clayton Kershaw. Atlanta optioned right-hander Evan Phillips to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room for Venters.
Though Venters didn't pitch in a Major League game since early 2013 and had only 14 innings with the Rays in 2018, his stuff, as both Anthopoulos and Snitker like to point out, is still good.
"Velocity is good, sink is outstanding and that's reflected in the ground-ball rate, it's still very high," Anthopoulos said. "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."
Venters would be the first to say that he isn't the same pitcher and doesn't have the same stuff from when Braves fans might remember him. A lot has changed since the days of Venters, Eric O'Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel dominating the later innings of Braves games in the early 2010s.
"Obviously, it's not the same as it was when I was here in the past, but it has been good enough," Venters said. "I'm not going to blow anybody's doors off or anything like that, but hopefully I can go out there and throw some strikes and get some ground balls and get some outs."
Venters still likes his sink. He still likes his slider, too, but at 33 years old and with his surgery history, he isn't naive to the fact that his approach to the game has changed. Despite those things, however, his numbers -- especially against left-handers -- are still good.
Venters held left-handed opponents to a .167 average with Tampa Bay. He also brings a 3.86 ERA and didn't give up a run in 20 of his 22 appearances for the Rays. All-in-all, Venters could be a nice addition to the Braves' bullpen, which has struggled to find any consistency outside of Jesse Biddle and A.J. Minter.
With the addition -- which cost the Braves' international slot money in the trade -- Venters is returning to his roots.
Along with his wife and three children, Venters has settled in the Atlanta area for some time now, living just 15 minutes from the Gwinnett Stripers' Coolray Field. When school resumes across Georgia in a matter of weeks, Venters' kids would be returning to school in the Atlanta area with Venters having to stay in Florida, but that won't be an issue anymore.
"This is home for me," Venters said. "This is where I came up and where I was drafted. It's where my family lives. ... I can't think of a better place to be."
Tori McElhaney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.