FORT MYERS – The big heartwarming story will be when – and thus if – LHP Jonny Venters makes it back to the majors for the first time since 2012, having battled through three elbow surgeries.
But Sunday was worth a headline, too, as Venters pitched in a major-league spring game – or any spring game for that matter – in nearly five years.
That he pitched well for the Rays, throwing only 13 pitches, hitting 92 mph on the stadium gun, getting a double play grounder on a sinker to erase a one-out walk in the 5-4 loss to the Twins, was even better.
"I've been kind of a mess all day, nervous and excited,'' said Venters, 32. "Once I got out there it kind of went away, it was competing again. And it felt really good. I was excited to get out there and get three outs.''
Venters – who admitted he even had trouble sleeping Saturday night,and was fidgeting in the bullpen – said his arm felt great during and after the sixth-inning outing, which is really most important. He is confident he can sharpen up his stuff, specifically in throwing strikes and increasing velocity. "Hopefully it keeps getter better every time I get out there,'' he said.
Venters was pitching for the Braves, against the Tigers in Lakeland, on March 26, 2013, when he felt something in his elbow that led to his second Tommy John surgery. He had a third in 2015, then after signing with the Rays in 2016 and pitching in five minor-league games, another procedure – that he calls No. 3 ½. But he came back again last year, and worked his way to Triple-A Durham.
Sunday, with "a whole herd" of family in the stands, he took the next step.
"That was pretty exciting for him to get out there,'' manager Kevin Cash said.
Snell on the ball
LHP Blake Snell put on a show over two perfect innings, striking out four and getting the other two outs on first pitches, working from the middle of the rubber. Manager Kevin Cash praised his "really strong performance, specifically "just the way he came out of the gate, pumping 96-97 (mph) and dotting pitches where he wanted them.'' Snell, was a little frustrated falling behind two hitters 3-0 but came back to strike both out. "Fast ball was coming out good,'' he said.
INF Christian Arroyo, the Hernando High product acquired from the Giants in the Evan Longoria trade, went 1-for-3 in his Rays debut and looked good at third, having completed rehab and recovery from his left hand injury. "I like the way he just played all around, looked really comfortable in the box, good swings," manager Kevin Cash said. … LHP Dan Jennings gave up four runs in a messy fourth that included two throwing errors by 2B Joey Wendle and a Mitch Garver homer. … RHP Jamie Schultz gave up the deciding run on two hits in the seventh.
Quote of the day
"That was a big-boy home run.''
– manager Kevin Cash, on the C.J. Cron blast that cleared the elevated walkway beyond the centerfield fence.
RHP Jake Odorizzi said there's been a lot be excited about in joining the contending Twins, and some feelings for those he left behind after the "inevitable" trade from the Rays.
"I feel bad for the guys that are still there with the turnover,'' he said. "It's tough. They want to go out there, they want to compete, they want to win. And to have tools that help them do that be taken away, it makes things a lot more difficult."
Odorizzi also said he was "very grateful" for all the Rays – front-office, coaches and teammates – did to help him along the way.
As for joining the Twins, he said: "It's good. It's different to hear the talk around here of not being satisfied with making the playoffs last year. … I think everybody buys into there is something that could be special this season and it's good to be a part of, and that side of it of going for it from the get-go."
* The Rays have their annual meeting with players union chief Tony Clark and his staff Monday morning.
* RHP Brent Honeywell headed out to see noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Monday, deciding whether to have him or Rays orthopedist Dr. Koco Eaton do his Tommy John elbow surgery.
* LHP Anthony Banda, acquired last week from Arizona, will throw a second live batting practice Monday in Port Charlotte and then likely cleared for game action.