ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - Spring training is a fresh start for everybody. For those players working their way back from an injury, the new season means a little more.
"I just want to get out there and pitch and see what my stuff is like," said Jonny Venters, who the Rays signed in 2015 to a two-year minor league contract.
Venters hasn't pitched since Spring Training in 2013 when he was a member of the Atlanta Braves. Since then, he's had Tommy John surgery twice, and three times total during his career.
"I feel great," said Venters. "My arm feels good so physically I'm excited about how I feel right now."
How Venters feels mentally is a different story.
"There's time during the process when you get drained mentally or tired of coming in the training room and doing your rehab," said Venters. "But, it's something you just have to grind through and come in every day and get your work done, and realize that there's a goal at the end, and you're just trying to do all that you can to get there."
Unfortunately, Venters has had too much experience with Tommy John surgery. This time around, he's relying on his new teammates, who are facing similar challenges, to help him get through this rehab.
"The main topic that all the guys talk about is the mental aspect of it," said pitcher Alex Cobb, who's hoping to make a comeback in 2016 after Tommy John surgery.
"We call ourselves the 'Sore Four.' It's me, Chase Whitley, Jonny Venters and Neil Wagner. We're able to bounce all of that off each other. Those guys are about 18 months out so you can see the path that you have to get to."
It's never an easy path to return after Tommy John surgery, let alone three of them.
"I've learned a lot," said Venters. "Going from my first surgery - being 10 years ago - so the process has changed. Obviously, I'm older and things I probably would have pushed through or thrown through when I was young, I probably don't do now, at least I hope I don't do now. There's definitely been lots of learning, when I can do things and when maybe I should not do things. It's definitely been a change. I think for the better."
"To a person, everybody has complimented his work ethic," said manager Kevin Cash. "Probably said that we're not going to have a better, nicer guy in camp."
Three major surgeries could have been enough for Venters to call it quits, but it wasn't.
"I'm excited to be here," he said. "Grateful for the opportunity. I'm definitely looking forward to a fresh start. I think it will be exciting."