07/12/2011 10:44 AM ET
Venters: It's been a long journey
Lefty has gone from injury-prone starter to big-time reliever
I feel very fortunate to be taking part in this year's All-Star Game. As I look at the rosters, there probably aren't too many other guys participating who were 30th-round picks.
To get to this point, it has been quite a journey, quite a long road. Early on, I wasn't really much of a prospect. I was a starter, and I had arm injuries. I came back from that, and once the move to the bullpen happened, things took off from there, starting with first getting to the big leagues last year.
The reason I say I wasn't much of a prospect is because it starts with the Draft. Some guys make real good money initially as a result of where they are picked and the signing bonus they get. It starts from there. They are just considered more of a prospect, and that is fair. A team has invested a lot of money and resources in them.
I didn't get a big bonus or anything, and as I started getting injured, I fell off the radar a little. That remained true until last year, or maybe the year before.
When I was young, I felt that I could get to the big leagues, but pretty soon I saw that opportunity slowly dwindle away. I got hurt, like I said, so I started thinking about other things I could do other than pro baseball. I realized I couldn't do anything else. But there was a long time there in the Minors that I didn't think it was going to happen. I ended up being lucky and, fortunately, things have worked out.
In the Minors, I have played at every level. Once I blew out my elbow in my first full season, I missed the second year and the start of my third year. I pitched OK after that, but I had an ERA in the 5.00s. I didn't pitch a whole lot. I was hurt -- constantly, constantly hurt. I didn't get a chance to pitch a lot, and when I did, in all honesty, I wasn't very good.
I think the biggest thing that made this all happen was the decision to move me to the bullpen. I started throwing harder in that role, and former Braves manager Bobby Cox was a guy who saw me throw. He liked me, and I think he had the biggest influence on me getting up to the big leagues. Fortunately, he kept running me out there last year, and I kept doing OK. He is a big reason I am here.
Last year really helped prepare me for this year. It was such a whirlwind. I was started in the Minors and then I came up and pitched out of the bullpen. I was throwing two, three innings at a time out of the 'pen. After an injury to Takashi Saito, I had a more important role as the season went along. I felt better as the season went along.
Now being in the All-Star Game, I can't believe it. I am just trying to take it all in. To be with these guys, and to represent the National League, is really special. I just hope my family has a good time and we win the game.
It is also special that my teammates Jair Jurrjens and Brian McCann are here with me. Since we got to Arizona, I have been in Brian's back pocket and trying to follow his lead.
Two years ago, Jonny Venters was a struggling starter with Triple-A Gwinnett, compiling a 4-7 record and a 5.62 ERA. Now Venters, who is 4-1 with a 1.59 ERA and three saves in 46 relief appearances, is one of four players representing the Braves in the All-Star Game.