07/22/12 7:13 PM ET
Venters tosses pair of innings in strong return
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
"It's definitely the best I've felt in a long time," Venters said. "It was just exciting to get back out there. To have it go pretty well is definitely something I needed. It's something to [build] off. Now hopefully I'll throw some zeroes up in a row and build some confidence."
Venters surrendered one hit and most important, induced five groundouts during his 21-pitch appearance. As he has struggled over the past two months, he has had trouble consistently commanding the powerful sinker that helped him combine for a 1.89 ERA in 164 appearances over the previous two seasons.
While Venters' elbow was bothering him, the trip to the disabled list also helped ease the frustration that had built as he compiled a 6.08 ERA and allowed opponents to produce a .440 on-base percentage in the 31 appearances he made from May 1-July 4.
"It felt good just to get out there and get a couple innings under my belt," Venters said. "I felt pretty good all the way around mechanically and physically. Getting the ground balls is really how I can tell what my stuff is doing. So any time I can go out there and get some ground balls, I feel like I'm doing something right."
Fredi keeps extra pitcher, plans another move
WASHINGTON -- Having played two extra-inning games and a doubleheader over the previous four days, the Braves opted to continue carrying an extra pitcher for Sunday afternoon's 9-2 loss to the Nationals.
But they were planning to add a position player and remove a pitcher from their active roster before beginning a three-game series against the Marlins on Monday.
"We'll see how we come out of [Sunday's game] and then probably go back to the normal allotment," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said prior to the game.
Atlanta taxed its bullpen a bit in the series finale against the Nationals, when Jair Jurrjens was chased after 2 1/3 innings. Luis Avilan chipped in 2 2/3 innings, before giving way to Anthony Varvaro for an inning and Jonny Venters for two.
The preference would be to add a right-handed position player to fill the void created when outfielder Matt Diaz was placed on the disabled list on Saturday with a right thumb ailment. But with limited options, the Braves might simply promote left-handed-hitting outfielder Jose Constanza, who is already on the 40-man roster.
Constanza has provided value while on the Atlanta roster, and the speedy outfielder began the day batting .355 (49-for-138) for Triple-A Gwinnett since the start of June. His 22-game hitting streak was snapped when he went hitless in two at-bats during a rain-shortened game on Friday night.
Right-handed-hitting first baseman Ernesto Mejia has enjoyed some success while batting .307 with 21 home runs and a .981 OPS for Gwinnett this year. But he was not on the 40-man roster, and more important, the Braves would rather add an outfielder.
The Nationals recently designated both left-handed-hitting outfielder Rick Ankiel and right-handed-hitting outfielder Xavier Nady for assignment. Of the two, the Braves would be more interested in Ankiel, whom they employed for 47 games in 2010.
Freeman keeps it light with walk-up music
WASHINGTON -- Freddie Freeman has certainly drawn some recent attention courtesy of the fact that he has chosen the pop song "Call Me Maybe" to play before each of his plate appearances during games at Turner Field.
Freeman said he has heard many of fans yell things like, "Are you serious with that song?" The Braves' witty first baseman provided a funny explanation that included a shot at the song that has played before Chipper Jones has come to the plate during much of his career.
"There are some teenage boys who might not think it's cool," Freeman said. "But when you're in touch with your manhood, you can walk out to 'Call Me Maybe' and not worry about it. They just don't know what's cool right now. Walking out to 'Call Me Maybe' and [Justin] Bieber songs, that's all cool. It's not like 'Crazy Train.' Geez, they've heard that for 19 years."
As Jones prepares to retire at the end of this year, many will always think of him when they hear "Crazy Train." Two decades from now, Freeman will have chosen a number of other walk-up songs, many of which might seem every bit as peculiar as "Call Me Maybe," a hit by Canadian pop star Carly Rae Jepsen.
"I'm not a serious guy, so I can't go up there to a serious song, plus it seems like a lot of people have fun with it," Freeman said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.