05/15/12 8:31 PM ET
Braves may see return of 'Everyday Jonny'
By Jon Cooper and Teddy Cahill / MLB.com
He shouldn't be. He only did it five times in all of 2011.
That he's done it twice in six appearances in May is rather unusual. It's certainly more unusual than it is, say, disconcerting to Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.
"Jonny's fine. Jonny's a hell of a pitcher," said the Braves' skipper. "He's fine. It's just one of those things."
Venters' one inning of work in Monday night's 3-1 loss to the Reds, in which he allowed two runs on three hits, raised his ERA to 3.29. File that under unusual, as well, as the last time his ERA was even close to that was last April 4, when it ballooned to 3.38. At that point, the season was three games old and he'd pitched 2 2/3 innings, having allowed one earned run.
Gonzalez believes that Venters, who earned the nickname "Everyday Jonny" while in the process of making 164 combined appearances in 2010 and 2011, may actually be a victim of not being used enough.
Through the first 36 games, Venters has seen action 15 times and four times in back-to-back games. Last year he had made 18 appearances by Game No. 36 and had been used five times in back-to-back games.
The subject has been food for thought for Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell, a sinkerball specialist in his 12-year Major League career.
"The old adage is that, with sinkerball pitchers, the more work that they have, that sinker works more," said Gonzalez. "He's been as fresh as he could be. Maybe we should start running him in four or five days in a row, so we can start calling him 'Everyday Jonny again."
"I don't know if Jonny gets frustrated," he added. "I've really never seen him frustrated. I'm sure he doesn't like to give up two runs, especially when it's a 1-1 game, but he's pretty level-headed that way. I'm sure he and Roger will work on something to get him back on track."
Delgado 'covering up,' settling into rotation
ATLANTA -- The cover-up may be worse than the act in some walks of life, but it's working wonders for Atlanta Braves rookie pitcher Randall Delgado.
Delgado's ability to cover up is helping make him a popular figure in the Braves' clubhouse.
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez saw him do it again in his start during Monday night's 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
"I think in the second inning he gets a runner at third and one out and pitched himself out of it," said Gonzalez. "We didn't make a play behind him and he gets out of it. Those are nice things to see. When he 'covers it up,' that's what we call it, he covers up your mistakes or whatever behind him and keeps your team in the ballgame."
Delgado kept the Braves in Monday night's game, one in which he did not figure in the decision, pitching 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one run (unearned) on four hits.
The youngster, he turned 22 in February, does something else that endears him to teammates -- he listens to veterans. He especially listened to six-time All-Star catcher Brian McCann, who he credited for Monday night's success.
"I think it was good communication with Brian," he said. "It was important for me to keep the game close. We talk, and he gave me some advice [Monday] for the game. That's how we did it, and it's working."
Delgado's listening quite intently, taking it all in and getting it done at the big league level. He leads all National League rookies with 35 strikeouts (11 more than San Diego's Joe Wieland, who just went on the disabled list), is second in innings pitched (40 1/3, only Houston's Lucas Harrell has more with 45), his 3.79 ERA is fourth among rookies -- the three pitchers above him, Arizona's Wade Miley, Chicago's Rafael Dolis and Pittsburgh's Jared Hughes all are relievers -- and his .240 opposing batting average is fourth, also behind Dolis, Miley and Hughes.
And he's only getting better.
Over his last three starts, he's pitched to a 1.33 ERA (three earned runs in 20 1/3 innings), with his shortest outing 5 2/3 innings on May 8 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He's struck out 14, while walking six. Compare that to his four starts in April, when his longest outing was 5 1/3 (twice -- vs. the Mets, a win, and at Arizona, a loss).
"I think I've adapted to the big leagues," said Delgado, who reached the sixth inning once in seven starts last season -- that excursion lasted one batter into the seventh, only because he had a no-hitter and ended when Cody Ross homered. "It's so different than the Minor Leagues.
"I'm practicing my pitches, too," he added. "I've talked with the other guys about this, and that's helping right now."
Gonzalez agrees that experience has bred confidence, and there is a lot to be confident about.
"He's one of those guys, he does everything you want him to do on the mound," Gonzalez said. "He holds runners, you can't run on him. He's real quick to the plate, he fields his position. He keeps getting better offensively. That's just from experience. Playing Double-A, Triple-A baseball, you don't get as many at-bats as you do in the Major Leagues. So it's just fun to watch him grow up."
Kimbrel chipping in to aid kids with cancer
ATLANTA -- Life may seem unfair in the batter's box when Braves closer Craig Kimbrel is on the mound blowing away big league hitters.
But for Grainne and Clay Owen of Marietta, Ga. -- who lost their 9-year-old son, Killian, to Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in 2003 -- and parents like them, the unfairness of life can't be measured.
Kimbrel decided he wanted to do something to try and level the playing field. He found the perfect vehicle in Curing Kids' Cancer, a Georgia-based charity started by the Owen family.
"I've been looking around for a charity in the Atlanta area to be a part of, and my agent ran across them," he said. "My agent knows [ESPN college football analyst] Lee Corso's son, and that's how we got involved with it. As soon as I met them and saw what they're all about, I was 100 percent on board. I wanted to be a part of it and try to help out and do what I can."
On Monday, he participated in the seventh annual AT&T Curing Kids' Cancer Golf Classic in Alpharetta, Ga.
"Grainne and Clay Owen, they lost their son a few years ago. They easily could have said, 'Let's move on, put this behind us and live the rest of our lives.' But they decided they wanted to make a difference, and they have," said Kimbrel, who is the chairman of Players Curing Kids' Cancer. "They raise thousands of dollars every year for coming up with new medicine for leukemia, and they've done a great job. It's great to just be a part of it and try to make a difference."
The Braves closer joined Corso, Georgia State head football coach Bill Curry and former NFL star and University of Alabama legend Cornelius Bennett at the event, which raised $260,000, pushing it over the $1 million-raised mark in its seven years.
It was a great day all-around for Kimbrel, a big college football fan and a huge follower of the Crimson Tide, and one he's sure to be involved in down the road.
But Kimbrel's fight against childhood cancer won't be limited to one golf tournament. He's bringing the fight to work with him. The fireballer will be donating $25 for every strikeout (so far he has 23, in 13 innings pitched) and $100 for every save (he has an NL-leading 11 in 12 tries).
"I have it on my website just so people can watch it and watch it go up," he said. "My idea is to hopefully get other players involved and let them get involved in an organization and be a part of it as well."
To watch Kimbrel's totals go up, visit craigkimbrel.com. For more information on Curing Kids' Cancer, go to www.curingkidscancer.org.
Francisco gets chance to oppose former team
ATLANTA -- The Reds' two-game series in Atlanta has given Braves third baseman Juan Francisco his first chance to play against his former team since he was traded by Cincinnati on April 1.
The Reds signed Francisco in 2004, when he was a teenager in the Dominican Republic. He steadily moved up their system and played 81 games for the Reds from 2009-11.
He also had the chance to play with Reds left-hander Aroldis Chapman in Triple-A Louisville in 2010 and said Chapman is his best friend among the current Cincinnati club. Francisco said it was nice to see Chapman and the rest of his former teammates this week.
"Everybody's my friend over there," he said. "I said 'Hi.' That's about it."
Francisco didn't play Monday and wasn't in the starting lineup Tuesday, but he said he would be ready if he gets the chance.
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. Teddy Cahill is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.