Tag:Jonny Venters
Posted on: April 1, 2011 11:13 am
Edited on: April 1, 2011 2:13 pm
 

Kimbrel already Braves' closer?

By Matt Snyder

Heading into the season, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez tried to make it clear there was no set closer for his ballclub. If you want to read anything into the Braves' opening day victory over the Nationals, however, it would appear Craig Kimbrel is the primary, with Venters as the eighth-inning guy.

Jonny Venters, who is left-handed, was beckoned in the eighth inning to face Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. All three of those hitters are righties. Meanwhile, Kimbrel, a right-hander, pitched the ninth, squaring off against Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel -- two of whom are left-handed.

Both were outstanding. Venters needed only seven pitches to get through the Nats' top three hitters, including their two best. Kimbrel showed how nasty his stuff can be, missing bats and fooling hitters, striking out two and coaxing a fly out.

Now, being that this was only one game, we're required to say there's no reason to think this will happen every single time the Braves in the same situation. But the fact remains that Gonzalez didn't play matchups at all. He isn't stupid. He saw the batters coming up and used Venters in the eighth and Kimbrel in the ninth, ignoring the matchups completely.

The only thing Gonzalez would say about his bullpen after the game was that it was "oustanding" and several other derivatives thereof. There was no discussion specifically of naming a closer or why he didn't play the matchups, but the writing could very well be on the wall.

Both excelled in their respective roles. Crash Davis taught us to never eff with a winning streak. The basic jist? Stick with what works, and it worked pretty well for the Braves' bullpen Thursday. There's a good chance the Venters/Kimbrel order was a harbinger of things to come -- a pretty ominous one for opposing hitters.

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Posted on: March 26, 2011 10:50 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/26: Marlins on a roll

Wes Helms
By C. Trent Rosecrans

3 UP

Florida Marlins -- It seemed like something of a joke a week-and-a-half ago when Florida owner Jeffrey Loria blew up at his team over their spring training play. At the time, the Marlins were 5-13 and losers of nine straight. Since then, they've gone 7-1-1, including Saturday's 6-5 victory over the Cardinals with a walk-off single from Wes Helms (above). Sure, the wins don't count, but even in the spring, it's better to win than to lose -- and also to keep the boss happy.

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees -- Rodriguez hit his sixth homer of the spring on Saturday and fifth int he last eight games. A-Rod has had a sweltering spring, hitting .422/.469/.978. 

Justin Verlander, Tigers -- It doesn't count, but the Tigers' ace just wrapped up a pretty damn impressive spring. In six starts he went 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA. He struck out 23, walked three in 28 innings, while giving up 21 hits and three runs. He finished it on Saturday, allowing five hits and a run in seven innings against the Phillies.

3 DOWN

Ryan Franklin, Cardinals -- It's the position Franklin is paid to succeed in -- the Cardinals go into the ninth inning with a 5-3 lead and three outs to go for the win. Greg Dobbs led off the bottom of the ninth for the Marlins before Franklin recorded two outs. Jeff Domiguez doubled to make it 5-4, then Jorge Padilla followed with another double to tie the game and then Helms singled in Padilla to give Florida a 6-5 victory.

Braves defense -- Atlanta had five errors in Saturday's 8-2 loss to the Mets. Right fielder Wilkin Ramirez had two errors, while Brooks Conrad, Jonny Venters and Joe Mather each had one. The Braves have 32 errors in 31 games this spring. The Braves had 126 errors last season, one fewer than the Nationals and Pirates in the bottom spot for that stat in the National League.

Aroldis Chapman, Reds -- The Reds fireballer didn't record an out in his outing against the World Champions. After back-to-back singles, a wild pitch allowed the first run to score, then he hit Mark DeRosa. After that Charlie Culberson singled and Andres Torres doubled. In all, Chapman gave up four hits and five runs, with converted infielder Jerry Gil allowing his inherited runners to score, while giving up a run of his own.

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 12:08 pm
 

Braves looking at duo of closers

By Matt Snyder

Having two guys capable of closing games instead of one -- or none -- is a nice problem to have. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez believes he has that problem, and he's not going to solve it.

"In a perfect world, you'd like to name one guy," Gonzalez said. "But I can't sit here and tell you May 15 is going to be the day or June 20. Maybe we'll go the whole way with it. It's not a bad thing. It really isn't." (MLB.com )

He's speaking of choosing between right-hander Craig Kimbrel and left-hander Jonny Venters. He noted that he might determine which guy to use in the ninth based upon rest or matchups.

Venters, 25, was stellar last season as a rookie. He had a sparkling 1.95 ERA in 83 innings, striking out 93 hitters. Control was a slight issue, as he walked 39 guys, but he still found ways to prevent those baserunners from scoring. He did grab one save, but was used in a setup role in front of Billy Wagner.

Kimbrel, 22, was thought to be the closer of the future for the Braves, and he still might be. He was nearly untouchable last season in his brief taste of the majors. He had a 0.44 ERA in 20 2/3 innings, striking out a whopping 40 hitters.

This spring, Venters has been better. He's thrown eight shutout innings and only allowed four baserunners. Kimbrel has a 4.91 ERA, though he has struck out 10 in 7 1/3 innings.

You can just see teams that have had trouble filling the closer role shaking their collective heads with a "must be nice" thought in their heads. From Rafael Soriano to Billy Wagner to a pair of young flame-throwers -- one from each side -- is a pretty nice mix.

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Posted on: February 13, 2011 2:37 pm
 

Wagner is happy in retirement

Billy Wagner Billy Wagner is still retired. Really, really retired. Really.

Even though he's still on the Braves' 40-man roster, don't expect him to return.

"I'm totally content with not playing baseball," Wagner told reporters Saturday night before Virginia Tech's baseball banquet, according to Nathan Warters of the Lynchburg, Va., News & Advance . "I love watching it, I love talking about it. If I miss anything, it would be some of the guys I played with and actually competing on the field, but other than that, you can keep it."

Wagner announced his intention to retire after the 2010 season last May, and even after saving 37 games with a 1.43 ERA in 71 games for the Braves last season, he never wavered.

In his retirement, he's spent his time coaching his sons' baseball and basketball teams.

"I told my wife the other day that it hasn't even dawned on me that I should be doing something, which is kind of unusual for me," Wagner said. "But I think it's kind of a load off my mind knowing that I don't have to prepare. I've just really enjoyed it."

Braves pitchers and catchers report tomorrow, without Wagner, but with youngsters Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters pitching the ninth inning for the Braves.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: December 30, 2010 11:39 am
 

Kimbrel could close for Braves in 2011

Craig Kimbrel The Braves will be looking internally for a closer to replace the retired Billy Wagner and 22-year old Craig Kimbrel tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he's ready to compete for the gig.

"There was never really a point last year where I didn't think I could do it," Kimbrel told the AJC 's Carroll Rogers. "I can't go on the mound and think 'I can't do it,' because then I'll be in a losing situation."

Kimbrel allowed just one earned run in 20 2/3 innings last season, striking out 40 batters and walking 16. He appeared in four postseason games, and allowed one hit and one earned run in 4 1/3 innings, while striking out seven. He pitches in the high-90s and has a nasty slider.

Braves manager Bobby Cox called him out to close Game 3 -- I was sitting in a press box dining room with a Braves scout who said he thought Kimbrel was the guy to close for the Braves in the future -- but the veteran manager didn't quite show that confidence in the rookie, who ultimately was charged with the loss.

WIth a 2-1 lead in the ninth, Kimbrel got Cody Ross to pop up to second baseman Brooks Conrad before pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa worked a walk. Kimbrel then struck out Andres Torres before Freddy Sanchez's grounder up the middle. WIth two on, Cox took out Kimbrel, bringing in lefty Michael Dunn to face Aubrey Huff, who singled in a run. Peter Moylan then came in to replace Dunn and Buster Posey hit it between the legs of Conrad, scoring Sanchez, for the second run charged to Kimbrel in the inning (unearned) and gave the Giants the lead.

Kimbrel says he's ready to compete in spring training and will be happy no matter his role -- just so he's in the big leagues.

"I'm looking at it like it doesn't matter what role I have, if I'm in the big leagues, I'm happy," Kimbrel said. "But if I just go out there and focus more on pitching well, good things will happen."

Left-hander Jonny Venters could also close. Venters was 4-4 with a save and a 1.95 ERA in 83 innings. He struck out 93 and walked 39, finishing eighth in Rookie of the Year voting. Like Kimbrel, he pitched in all four of the team's NLDS games, allowing seven hits but no runs in 5 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking none.

The Braves signed Scott Linebrink, who has seven saves in his 11 seasons in the big leagues, but has been a set-up man in the past and isn't coming off his best season in 2010, where he was 3-2 with a  4.40 ERA for the White Sox. Veteran lefty George Sherrill had 52 saves in 2008 and 2009, mostly as the closer for the Orioles, but is also coming off a bad year, with a 6.69 ERA in 36 1/3 innings for the Dodgers. He posted his worst strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.04) of his career, walking 24 batters and striking out 25.

There is, of course, still Rafael Soriano out there. The Braves' 2009 closer is coming off a season with 45 saves for the Tampa Bay Rays, but is likely out of Atlanta's budget. A cheaper free-agent option could be former Blue Jays closer Kevin Gregg.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: November 15, 2010 2:22 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:36 am
 

Feliz, Posey win Rookie honors

Buster Posey Rangers closer Neftali Feliz and Giants catcher Buster Posey are your Rookies of the Year. No surprise, really.

The only question about today's results was which deserving National League rookie would win. Buster Posey ended up winning, taking the award over Atlanta's Jason Heyward.

While I would have voted for Heyward, I have zero problem with Posey winning. Both were incredible. What strikes me as interesting is the voting results, as Posey won comfortably, getting 20 of the 32 first-place votes and finishing with a total of 129 points. Heyward got nine first-place votes and 107 total points. I honestly thought it would be closer.

Three voters didn't vote for either, one voter went with Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia, while two voted for Gaby Sanchez.

The American League spread was about the same, as the National League. Feliz received 20 first-place votes and finished with 122 points. Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson finished second, with eight first-place votes and 98 total points. Twins third baseman Danny Valencia was third.

Pedro Feliz The difference, as discussed last week, was the caliber of candidates in both leagues. Feliz had a good year, but he's a closer, and that's a different role. Just for the record, let's look at the stats from the American League Rookie of the Year:

69 1/3 IP, 43 H, 21 R, 21 ER, 18 BB, 71 K, 2.73 ERA, .880 WHIP

Not bad numbers. Now let's look at a rookie in the National League who didn't garner a single vote.

68 IP, 56 H, 25 R, 22 ER, 17 BB, 92 K, 2.91 ERA, 1.074 WHIP

How about that? How did that guy not even get considered for the National League Rookie of the Year?

That's because he got hurt -- and he was a starter.

Stephen Strasburg made just 12 starts, but still pitched nearly as many innings as Feliz, who was the Rangers' closer. He didn't have 40 saves.

That said, Feliz definitely deserved the award.

The voting:
National League (points)
Buster Posey 129
Jason Heyward 107
Jaime Garcia 24
Gaby Sanchez 18
Neil Walker 3
Starlin Castro 3
Ike Davis 2
Jose Tabata 1
Jonny Venters 1

American League
Neftali Feliz 122
Austin Jackson 98
Danny Valencia 12
Wade Davis 11
John Jaso 3
Brandon Boesch 3
Brian Matusz 3

The National League Cy Young Award will be announced tomorrow.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: September 6, 2010 12:59 pm
 

Year of the Rookie in NL

Of all the postseason award races, the most stacked and most interesting is probably the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

Almost impressive as the names on this list are the names not on this list of front-runners, guys like Stephen Strasburg, Jonathon Niese, Tyler Colvin and Mike Stanton. You could add Ike Davis, Neil Walker and Jhoulys Chacin to that list, as well. And Mike Leake and Ian Desmond...

Starlin Castro SS Starlin Castro
Chicago Cubs
.317/.360/.438 3 HR 40 RBI -2.8 UZR/150 2.3 WAR

Castro had six RBI in his big-league debut on May 7 and has been nearly as impressive since.  In fact, he's been better since the All-Star break, hitting .363/.388/.493 in the second-half of the season. Castro has a good bat and good speed, but needs to refine his game. He has eight stolen bases, but has been caught stealing six times. His glove has been erratic, but he has the raw tools to be very good. In short, his future seems brighter than the present, and that's saying something.

Jaime Garcia SP Jaime Garcia
St. Louis Cardinals
13-6 153 1/3 IP 2.35 ERA 61 BB 124 K 3.5 WAR

Although he's behind Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in the Cardinals' rotation, he has been just as good as either of those two. The left-hander, two years off of Tommy John, has been at his best even as his team has hit the skids. During the team's recent slide, losing 14 of 21 games, Garcia is 3-1 with a 0.67 ERA. In his lone loss during that run, his team let him down, allowing three unearned runs against the Brewers on Aug. 17. The only earned runs he's allowed in that time are the two he gave up in the series-opening 3-2 victory over the Reds on Friday.

Jason Heyward OF Jason Heyward
Atlanta Braves
.281/.389/.473 16 HR 65 RBI 3.1 UZR/150 3.7 WAR

In spring training, it was tough to find anyone who hadn't already awarded the Rookie of the Year to Heyward. It was easy to see why, he's big, strong, fast and has good plate discipline. In short, he's a can't-miss prospect. And he hasn't missed. Although, injuries have slowed him, he's still been nothing short of impressive.

Buster Posey C Buster Posey
San Francisco Giants
.328/.374/.506 11 HR 55 RBI -6.9 UZR/150 3.1 WAR

It took until May for the Giants to finally call Posey up to the big leagues and he quickly showed why people were calling for him to be on the roster since opening day. He took over the starting spot when the Giants traded Bengie Molina on July 1 and is expected to anchor the Giants' lineup for years to come. Since Molina was traded, Posey has hit .346/.400/.562. There are still questions whether he can be an elite defensive catcher, but his bat will carry him.

Gaby Sanchez 1B Gaby Sanchez
Florida Marlins
.284/.353/.467 16 HR 72 RBI -0.2 UZR/150 2.7 WAR

Not only can Sanchez swing the bat, he has a heck of a cross-check, taking out Nyjer Morgan in last week's brawl in Florida. While that may have been his most high-profile hit, Sanchez has plenty moret. He leads major league rookies in total bases (227), doubles (35) and RBI (72).

Jonny Venters RP Jonny Venters
Atlanta Braves
4-2 71 1/3 IP 1.77 ERA 32 BB 81 K 1.7 WAR

Venters won't get too many votes, but he's been fantastic for the Braves out of the bullpen this season. He leads all rookies with 65 appearances, 21 more than the next most-used rookie pitcher in the National League. With Billy Wagner retiring after this season, Venters could be the team's closer in 2011.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: July 19, 2010 5:01 pm
 

Venters, Cox suspended for hitting Fielder

Jonny Venters Major League Baseball has suspended Braves left-hander Jonny Venters four games and manager Bobby Cox one, according to Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Venters threw back-to-back pitches at Prince Fielder in Saturday's game against the Brewers. He was warned after the first one went over Fielder's head and was successful, hitting Fielder in the back, with the second.

Bob Watson wrote Cox was suspended for "the intentional actions of Venters after a warning had been issued to the pitcher following the first intentional pitch thrown at Fielder."

After the game, Venters (and Cox) denied the actions were intentional, even though it was the second consecutive game Fielder was plunked. In Friday's game he was hit following a Ryan Braun homer and Saturday's came in the next at-bat following his own homer.

Brewers manager Ken Macha said he complained to MLB about his players getting hit too often. Brewers have been hit 47 times, the most in the majors.

Neither of the balls that hit Fielder looked as if they were being targeted anywhere near the plate. On Friday, Tommy Hanson's 92 mph fastball hit the Brewers' first baseman on the thigh. Saturday, Venters hit Fielder with a 94 mph fastball between the 2 and 8 on Fielder's back after Fielder was able to duck out of the way of the previous pitch. Macha certainly has a right to defend his players. Rickie Weeks has been hit 17 times, the tops in the majors, and Fielder is third with 14.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
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