11:30am: The Nationals will select the contract of left-hander Jonny Venters prior to tonight’s game against the Marlins, reports Grant Paulsen of NBC Sport Washington (via Twitter). He’ll join fellow veteran Fernando Rodney in a constantly changing Nats bullpen mix; the Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty reported yesterday that Rodney is also set to have his contract selected. Both promotions will require corresponding 40-man and 25-man roster moves.
Venters, 34, was the National League Comeback Player of the Year in 2018 after he 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. Along the way, 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 while holding left-handed opponents to a laughable .133/.200/.200 batting line.
The Braves naturally tendered a contract to Venters following that performance, but the 2019 season was nothing short of a nightmare. 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) before being released in May.
Since signing with the Nats on May 29, Venters has been pitching for the team’s Double-A club. While he’s allowed just one run in seven innings, the control problems that dogged him in Atlanta earlier this season have persisted. Venters has issued six walks in seven innings and also hit a batter. He’s generated grounders at a ridiculous 72.7 percent clip in that tiny sample, and lefties are hitting just .194 against him with a .323 slugging percentage between the Majors and Minors in 2019. However, he’s also walked 11 of the 43 lefties he’s faced (against 10 strikeouts), so he’ll need to quickly rediscover some semblance of control if he’s to have much hope of sticking in the Washington ’pen.
As has been well documented, the Nationals’ bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster so far in 2019, although they no longer lay claim to the league’s worst collective ERA, having narrowly squeaked ahead of Baltimore for that onerous distinction (6.29 to 6.34). Nationals relievers have the game’s fifth-worst collective FIP and second-worst xFIP, and they rank in the bottom third of MLB in BB/9 and HR/9 as well.