The Braves gave Jonny Venters, once one of the better relief pitchers in Braves history, his unconditional release Saturday afternoon.
Venters made nine appearances this season and recorded a 17.36 ERA. In 4-2/3 innings, he allowed 13 runs (nine earned) on nine hits. He walked eight and struck out seven, and he gave up three home runs. Opposing batters hit .391 against him.
His story is one of perseverance and persistence. Venters overcame 3-1/2 Tommy John surgeries to return to the Braves. They acquired him from Tampa Bay, for which he pitched his first game since 2012, before last year’s trade deadline.
Braves manager Brian Snitker, who’s known Venters through the entirety of his unique journey, was emotional discussing his release.
“You get attached to players when you have them, and he’s a special person,” Snitker said. “I’ve been here a long time with him. What he’s gone through, where he’s come through that hard work, perseverance and the whole thing, that wasn’t a normal conversation that we had. It was a hard one, a very hard one.”
Venters was a star Braves reliever in 2010 and 2011. He pitched 171 innings in 164 appearances and was 10-6 with a 1.90 ERA. He walked 82 and struck out 189. He, Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel comprised arguably the best reliever trio in team history.
“Quick hat tip to Jonny Badass and the incredible comeback he made last year,” O’Flaherty said on Twitter. “Don’t forget who he really was because of 9 bad games. Nastiest sinker I’ve ever seen in person. Keep working Jonny...”
Since returning from a stint on the injured list, Venters, 34, has allowed runs in two of his three outings. The final straw was Friday against the Brewers, though that didn’t fall exclusively on him.
After registering two outs, a blown checked-swing call kept the Brewers alive. Dansby Swanson also made an error that would’ve prevented a big inning. Instead, Venters was charged with four runs - none earned - in the final outing of his Braves career.
“Probably not today,” Snitker said when asked if Venters would’ve been released Saturday had that inning brought more fortune. “But you know, it’s been like that for a while. His arm feels good. He’s turning the ball loose. There’s some mechanical things in there, it’s not sinking like it should. He needs to work that out. I don’t know that we’re able to give him that option here.
“It’s just hard to do that at this level with enough consistency to get it back. And I think he can. I don’t think he’s done pitching by any stretch.”
Whatever the future holds, Venters always will be a beloved Brave. Teammates, coaches and media have spoken glowingly of him over the years.
“When we got him last year, the guys gave him a standing ovation when he went in the clubhouse,” Snitker said. “Everything he’s been through, everyone appreciates, respects and admires everything he’s gone through the last few years to get back to the majors. It’s something probably the majority of the guys doing this couldn’t do. ... Everyone has the utmost respect, admiration for him. He’s just a wonderful guy that you pull for always.”
The Braves brought back lefty reliever Jerry Blevins from Triple-A Gwinnett to replace Venters.
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