Q&A: Venters discusses Braves’ bullpen, return from injuries

Jonathan William Venters was born March 20, 1985 in Pikeville, Ky. The Braves drafted Venters in the 30th round in 2003. Venters made his major league debut April 17, 2010 against Colorado. Venters pitched three innings of relief and allowed no runs and only one hit. Because of injuries, Venters did not pitch in the majors from 2013-17. Venters returned in 2018 with the Tampa Bay Rays, who traded him to the Braves on July 26. Venters was chosen National League Comeback Player of the Year in 2018.

Braves pitcher Jonny Venters met with the media at Chop Fest on Jan. 19 at SunTrust Park. In the interview, he discussed his 2018 comeback season, the additions of Brian McCann and Darren O’Day, and heading into spring training this season. The interview was edited for brevity.

Q: What do you think, you know you’ve heard a lot of talk about the Braves may add a bullpen piece. You’ve got a feel for what you have in there and what could be in there next year, do they need to add something?

A: I mean it's a pretty special group of guys down there, a lot of great, electric arms. You know it never hurts to add a veteran piece. It's always exciting when you hear (Craig) Kimbrel is still out there and the chance for him to come back, I don't know what the chances are, but it's always exciting to think about adding somebody like that. But I think the group we have is good, and I expect us to get the job done. Obviously whatever the front office thinks we need we support that, but I think we are in good shape.

Q: Have you had a chance to, I’m sure you’ve talked with (Brian McCann) several times since he signed, how cool is that having him back?

A: Oh, I can't wait to get going and get to see him in this clubhouse because it's already such a good group, and then you add a Brian, like you heard last night the way guys talk about Brian, he's a special guy. He brings a great attitude to the park everyday, and I think he will be a great fit for this team and I just look forward to getting to spend time around him everyday. It's just a special thing.

Q: You watched Darren O’Day last year working out, being here every day with the team, and you’ve seen him in the past. Do you think he can come in and help this team?

A: Oh, no doubt, no doubt. I've seen him when he was healthy. He's very reliable and a great leader, great veteran guy to have around. And he gets the job done when he's healthy. He goes out there and throws up numbers, gets guys out and helps the team win. Seeing him last year, just the work ethic, the work he was putting in. He knew and we all knew he wasn't going to pitch last year, but he was in there every day helping guys and working hard. He brings great leadership and a great attitude to the field every day, I feel like. I look forward to seeing him on the mound because we all know what he can do when he is healthy. I think it's going to be great to have him.

Q: What (McCann) said last night about naming the Comeback Player of the Year award after you, probably won’t be the first or last time you hear about that. At any point in the offseason did that sink in any deeper just what you were able to accomplish, and just sitting here completely healthy in an off-season?

A: Yes, it did. I got to say thanks to Brian for the way he spoke about me last night. It was pretty cool to hear him talking about me like that. It did one moment this offseason. My sons were putting on jerseys from last year, and I had a Durham Bulls jersey, and they put them on and I saw the jerseys, and I was like, "Last year was crazy, it was a crazy year." You know I don't think any of us ever expect, you know didn't know if I would ever get back to the big leagues or expect it. For it to go the way it went last year, getting to come back here and pitch in the playoffs, I think it was an awesome year. And I'm just grateful to still be here.

Q: Did it help you be around other pitchers at the time you were going through your injury, like (Kris) Medlen and Peter Moylan, to encourage each other between the three of you that you guys could come back, and did you get any gratification from being recognized as Comeback Player of the Year?

A: Yeah, Medlen and Pete and Brandon Beachy, we were kind of going through that stuff at the same time. And I still, in this offseason I worked out with Brandon, just trying to make a comeback for himself. Any time you can spend those days because there are long days, there are tough days when you are rehabbing in the training room, and any time you can do it with guys you enjoy being around like them, makes it easier. I couldn't be more grateful for the award, and I appreciate all y'all and getting the votes and stuff. Means a lot to me to receive the award.