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02/14/2013 7:46 PM ET

Venters better prepared for bounceback season

Left-hander returns to throwing program that led to pre-2012 success

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Spring Training progressed last year, Jonny Venters got his first indication that he might encounter a rough season. His first few days in camp this year have given him reason to believe this season will be different.

"I feel like I'm getting back to where I was before last year," Venters said. "I'm pretty excited about it. Everything feels pretty good."

Venters had established himself as one of the game's best left-handed relievers, posting a combined 1.89 ERA during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He also combined for 171 innings over 164 appearances -- six more than any other Major Leaguer -- during that two-year span.

Accounting for the heavy workload, Venters opted to not begin throwing until a month before the start of Spring Training last year. The decision proved one that he regretted, as Venters posted a 3.22 ERA and surrendered six homers in 58 2/3 innings. He had surrendered a total of three home runs in his previous two seasons.

Venters began playing catch during the second week of December this past winter. As a result, his arm has felt a little stronger during the early days of camp.

"I definitely came in a little more prepared this year than I did last year, " Venters said. " I took a lot of time off throwing last year and then I kind of got behind the eight ball. Once camp started, I had a hard time getting going and my arm started getting sore. This year, I started to crank it up a little earlier and be a little more prepared."

Venters' shoulder bothered him in Spring Training last year and he continued to feel some occasional discomfort near the top of his left arm. But after going on the disabled list for two weeks in July, he was able to finish the season relatively pain-free.

More importantly, Venters compiled a 1.71 ERA in 26 appearances after being activated from the disabled list.

Gonzalez ready to make his opening remarks

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will deliver his annual preseason motivational speech before his team experiences its first full-squad workout at Champion Stadium on Friday.

"It will be different, because you've got to go over your preparations and whatever you've got going on," Gonzalez said. "But it's like you've already seen [most players] for the last two days. They're already all here. So you've had some time to spend with each of them."

All of Gonzalez's projected starting position players had reported to camp by Wednesday. Visa issues prevented Jose Constanza from getting to the Orlando area as of Thursday afternoon. The Braves are hoping the outfielder will be able to resolve the issues in time to travel from his native Dominican Republic within the next couple days.

Pitchers Yohan Flande and Juan Jaime resolved their visa problems in time to fly from the Dominican to Orlando Thursday night. They are expected to be present for Friday's workout.

Gonzalez expressed disappointment on Wednesday that Florida natives Jordan Schafer and Tyler Pastornicky were not among the early arrivals to camp. But Schafer and Pastornicky were among the earliest arrivals on Thursday. Gonzalez saw Schafer at 5:45 a.m. ET.

Worth noting

• Chipper Jones will begin a five-day stint as a guest instructor on Friday. Jones, who retired after last season, will be in uniform as he catches up and provides assistance to his former teammates.

• Dusty Hughes, a left-handed reliever who began throwing sidearm last year, has caught Gonzalez's attention with his early bullpen sessions.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.