VIERA, Fla. -- Jonny Venters expressed relief after tossing a pain-free perfect eighth inning in Thursday afternoon's 6-3 loss to the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. The Braves' left-handed reliever had been forced to rest over the past two weeks to relieve some stiffness around his left shoulder.
"My arm could not have felt any better," Venters said after making his first appearance since March 18. "It felt great."
The Braves were not overly concerned as with what the club described as "normal Spring Training soreness" with Venters. But there was certainly some reason for relief as he threw his patented hard sinker without any hesitation or sign of discomfort.
"That's the best it's felt in a while," Venters said. "I couldn't ask for anything better. Now I've just got to worry about getting everything else locked in."
Venters was not happy about falling behind with a 3-0 count against the final two batters he faced. But he knew there would be some rust as he pitched in a game for the first time in 11 days.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Venters will make at least a couple more appearances during the exhibition season to prepare for his role as closer Craig Kimbrel's primary setup man. The 27-year-old reliever made a Major League-high 85 appearances, despite battling similar left-arm discomfort during the middle of last season.