Jonny Venters walked more batters consecutively in the sixth inning than Wednesday night’s starter, Kris Medlen, has in the entire spring training for the Atlanta Braves. After Venters recorded a groundout to begin the inning, he walked not one, not two, not even three but four straight batters to basically hand the Miami Marlins their only run in the Braves’ 2-1 win. Add in a wild pitch and that makes for an ugly outing for the left-handed relief pitcher.
Venters hasn’t been clean this spring training. After tonight, he has a 4.26 ERA and five strikeout to the four walks he allowed tonight in six games. Those aren’t horrible numbers, but he hasn’t recorded a single perfect inning. As a relief pitcher, you don’t get time to warm up to the game. Manager Fredi Gonzalez will be looking for shutdown performances in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings from his bullpen.
In Venters’ defense, Gonzalez called on him to record an out in the fifth after Medlen was struck by a come-backer in the right arm. Perhaps he was caught off guard in a spring training setting, where every inning is mapped out before the game starts. But then again, relief pitchers make their money by working out of tricky end of game situations.
Following tonight’s outing, his WHIP jumped to an unimpressive 2.37. It’s the second straight outing he’s allowed a run in his inning of work. Is this an example of him working out the kinks? Or is he going to struggle with consistency in 2013 like he did to begin 2012? Keep an eye on his next few outings in spring to see if he has some clean innings.
Other Notes: Medlen threw 4 2/3 shutout innings while striking out three with no walks and two hits. Freddie Freeman hit his third home run of spring training – a solo shot in the second inning. Chris Johnson provided the game-winning RBI single in the ninth inning.
Strikeout Watch: The Braves struck out seven times Wednesday night and now have the fifth most this spring training with 142.
Upton Brothers: Justin Upton was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. B.J. Upton finished 2-for-3 with a double.
Third Base Competition: Juan Francisco got the start and was 0-for-2 with a walk and strikeout. In Johnson’s lone at-bat, he knocked in the game-winning run with a single into center field.
Up Next: The Braves play the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday afternoon with Mike Minor in line to get the start.