The Nationals announced that they’ve signed veteran left-hander Jonny Venters to a minor league contract and assigned him to Double-A Harrisburg. The 2018 National League Comeback Player of the Year was released by the Braves earlier this month.
Venters, 34, returned from three Tommy John surgeries and a five-year MLB absence in 2018 to give the Braves 34 1/3 innings of 3.67 ERA ball. The southpaw averaged 7.1 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 and 0.26 HR/9 to go along with a superlative 69.1 percent ground-ball rate in that terrific comeback effort. Unfortunately, the 2019 season wasn’t kind to him. Venters appeared in just nine games with the Braves, pitching a total of 4 2/3 innings but surrendering nine earned runs (plus another four unearned runs). He faced 31 batters and allowed more to reach than he retired (nine hits, eight walks).
On the plus side for Venters, his velocity held up (93.3 mph average fastball), but that’s only a small silver lining on an otherwise tough stretch of games. For the Nationals, though, there’s little to lose in terms of giving him a look. The Washington bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster beyond Sean Doolittle, and even he’s begun to slip a bit recently — perhaps due to an elevated workload. Nationals relievers have the worst ERA in baseball by more than a run (7.14), and they rank 28th in FIP (5.27), 29th in xFIP (5.13) and 24th in SIERA (4.38).