After 3 Tommy John surgeries, Jonny Venters back in majors

BALTIMORE (AP) — Jonny Venters is back in the big leagues, ready to pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays after enduring three Tommy John surgeries and a six-year absence.

Venters was sitting out a rain delay in the minors during a Wednesday morning game when he got word the Rays were recalling him from Triple-A Durham.

So the 33-year-old lefty hopped into his truck, grabbed a flight to Baltimore and was in the clubhouse when Tampa Bay formally announced the move.

“It’s hard to put into words how I’m feeling. It’s been an emotional day,” Venters said. “I’m excited to be here. Grateful for the opportunity. Hopefully go out and get some people out today.”

Venters last pitched in the majors for Atlanta in the 2012 NL wild-card game, a year after he was an NL All-Star. Since then, he had elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2013 and 2014 after getting it done originally in 2005.

“After the last time, I all but made up my mind I wasn’t going to do it again,” Venters said. “Then I spoke with the doctors and my family, everybody thought it was a good idea to do it again. So I felt like if everybody that I cared about thought that way, then I would be stubborn not to try it again.

“So here I am. So far, so good,” he said.

How he fares in the majors on six years rest is anyone’s guess.

“That’s a good question,” Venters said. “I’m not sure. We’ll see.”

Venters was 0-0 with a 1.59 ERA in five games for Durham this season. He pitched at four minor league levels in the Rays’ system last year and pitched briefly in their organization in 2016.

Upon his return to the majors, Venters acted more like a rookie than a veteran of 124 big league games.

“Humble, appreciative, a little overwhelmed,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Just like, amazing.”

Cash, in turn, was delighted to see Venters’ hard work pay off.

“I can’t even fathom what he’s probably gone through on the injury front,” the manager said. “The organization is really happy. And for good reason. He’s a good pitcher and probably a better person.”

Cash gave Venters a big hug when the pitcher walked into the manager’s office.

“He told me his family’s on a plane right now,” Cash said. “I cannot imagine what he’s been through. For me personally, I was excited to shake his hand and say, ‘Congrats.’”

To make room for Venters, the Rays sent reliever Hunter Wood to Triple-A Durham.

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