It’s a miracle that Jonny Venters still has feeling and control of his left arm; it’s miraculous that he is actually still able to produce a low-90’s fastball with that same arm without any discomfort.
It’s incredible that Jonny Venters is still pitching after undergoing three Tommy John surgeries and a fourth similar procedure, after tearing his UCL for the third time of his life.
It’s improbable that Jonny Venters is in spring training with a legitimate chance at making the Tampa Bay Rays Opening Day roster.
But, that’s just the story of Jonny Venters.
Once, he was a very prominent member of one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball while he was with the Atlanta Braves.
From 2010 to 2011, Venters accumulated 171 innings pitched out of the bullpen, garnering a 1.89 ERA / 2.74 FIP while striking out opposing hitters 26.7% of the time. During that time timeframe, left-handed hitters would have been better off just staying in the dugout as they mustered a .160/.272/.223 line against him over 207 plate appearances.
Unfortunately, 2012 was a down year for Venters as regression finally showed up and his numbers spiraled. In 2013, Venters tore his UCL, having to undergo the second Tommy John surgery of his career (the first came in 2005). While rehabbing from his surgery, Venters once again tore his UCL and had to undergo his third Tommy John surgery, putting his future in the major leagues in doubt.
The Rays took a flier on him prior to the 2015 season (right after his third surgery) and allowed him to rehab in their facilities. While on the comeback trail, Venters impressed as he could still reach the low-90’s, had solid control and movement, and was looking like he’d join the Rays bullpen at some point during the 2016 season.
That’s when he tore his UCL, once again.
Rather than go through a fourth, likely career-ending, Tommy John surgery, Venters endured a different type of surgery that reattached the ligament. He would shockingly return to the Rays once again on a minor league deal and progressed his way though the system at 32 years old.
Eventually, he made his way to the Durham Bulls and helped them to the Triple-A championship. However, once the minor league season ended, Venters was left in the minors, making him wait at least one more off-season before he’d make his return to the majors.
This off-season was the first Venters had without having rehabilitate since his second Tommy John surgery in 2013.
Once the 2017 season concluded, Venters became a free agent, but he already knew where he was going to sign. He would return with the Tampa Bay Rays, the team that has given him opportunity after opportunity to get healthy over a three-year period, and it looks like in 2018, Venters hard work, perseverance, and incredible dedication towards returning to the big leagues will finally pay off.