Last season, Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters entered spring training with something to prove and were both were looking to nail down a spot in the Braves bullpen. This time around their spots are secure and that has changed their approach significantly with the hopes of avoiding last season's fade.
The AJC's David O'Brien caught up with both Kimbrel and Venters who said that they began preparations for last season several weeks before spring training began with the goal of impressing new manager Fredi Gonzalez. Both worked frequently during the preseason and then were leaned on heavily throughout the season by Gonzalez. By September they both struggled and appeared to be exhausted.
With their spots in the bullpen secure this season, both Venters and Kimbrel aren't nearly as far along as last season and that is by design.
"I definitely slowed it down, started throwing a little later, I'm kind of easing into a little more than last year. Last year I came into camp guns blazing, ready to go 100 percent. This year I'm going to use spring training as more of a tool for trying to get ready for the season, as opposed to ... really two years ago I was trying to make the team, and last year there was a new manager and it was my second year in the big leagues."
One key for the Braves this season will be trying to reduce the workload of Venters and Kimbrel in an effort to keep them fresh for the stretch run. Kimbrel worked in 79 games last season while Venters appeared in 85. The Braves bullpen in 2012 appears to have several other options including Jairo Asencio and Arodys Vizcaino. It will be important for the rest of those relievers to earn Gonzalez's trust so that he won't be making the call for his two workhorses quite as often.