Spring training is a time for renewed beginnings, preparing for a season of endless possibilities, all in a relaxed atmosphere.
When Jonny Venters took the mound for a game last spring against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, a week before opening day, he was the other baseball players in camp.
Looking forward to the season.
Then the Atlanta Braves reliever's season was over.
"My arm had been a little sore all spring, and I threw a couple of pitches and it hurt pretty bad," Venters recalled. "I couldn't do it anymore."
Venters, a Lake Brantley graduate, had torn the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow for the second time. He underwent Tommy John surgery last May 16 and has been rehabilitating since then.
He is not expected to pitch again for the Braves for 2-3 months.
"You think you go through all of that the first time, and you think you should be OK," said Venters, who had elbow surgery in 2005 while in the minors. "Definitely one of the key parts is getting over the fact that you had surgery and to get back to throwing normally."
Said Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, a major-league catcher for 11 seasons: "He already showed us what he can do for us. We need him. Probably if we had him last year in the playoffs, we would have gone further."
The Braves won the National League East in 2013 and lost in four games to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a division series. For every home game last season, Venters sat in the dugout.
He could get water and be a sounding board, but not much else, for teammates. And the Braves were missing one of baseball's top setup relievers. Venters has a 2.23 ERA in 230 games, spanning three seasons, and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.
"It's such a good group of guys and watching them win the division last year was fun, but at the same time, I was itching to get out there," said Venters, who will turn 29 on Thursday. "I hated not being able to help the team, but it goes with the territory."
Said Braves closer Craig Kimbrel: "He didn't help us on the field, but he definitely helped us off the field with the attitude that he has day in and day out."
How Venters approached his time away from the field didn't surprise his high-school coach, Mike Smith.
"He is such a team player," said Smith, who now coaches at Lake Minneola. "Even when he was injured slightly from football, he was always trying to get the best out of everyone. He was kind of like an assistant coach."
Venters' rehab consists of exercises with resistance bands, weight training and cardiovascular work. He has thrown bullpen sessions, but they are limited to throwing fastballs.
Since this is his second time coming back from elbow surgery, Venters knew what to expect.
"I knew what to expect," Venters said. "It's a little slower, but overall it's been similar and feels the same."
The Braves are hopeful the results that Venters gets once he returns will be the same, too.
"He's one of the best lefties I've seen in my life coming out of the bullpen," Perez said. "Hopefully he'll be ready soon."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun