ATLANTA -- Jonny Venters feels fine physically. But while surrendering as many homers in the past two weeks as he had during the previous two years, the Braves' left-handed reliever finds himself frustrated and in search of a solution.
"Giving up homers [stinks]," Venters said. "It just shows that my sinker has not been sinking. It's been up in the zone. Normally, I get all ground balls. I haven't been doing that either. Guys have been elevating and hitting the ball in the air. It just shows I'm leaving balls up and my stuff is not doing what I want it to."
With his patented sinker proving inconsistent, Venters has allowed three home runs in his past six innings. He had allowed just three home runs in the 182 1/3 innings he had completed preceding this rough stretch.
Venters' struggles were extended on Saturday when Nationals phenom Bryce Harper reached across the plate and sent a 1-2 fastball on a line over the left-field wall.
"I feel great," Venters said. "I felt great yesterday. I made a mistake to Harper and he made me pay for it. I made two good pitches to him early in the count and then I left one up and he hit it out of the park. I left it up and over the plate and he barreled it. He obviously has a lot of pop."
Everything seemed fine when Venters did not allow a run in nine April appearances. But in 11 appearances this month, he has posted a 7.27 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .425 (17-for-40) with a .511 on-base percentage.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Venters' sinker has been moving more horizontal than vertical. He believes his pitcher will fix this problem by staying on top of the baseball more consistently.
" I still feel like if I make my pitches with my stuff, I'll be fine," Venters said. "I'm not going to go out there and change my approach. If I can go out there and throw like I want to, I feel like I can get outs."
Chipper feeling better after minor procedure
ATLANTA -- After limping around for a week with an extremely ugly bruised left calf, Chipper Jones found some relief on Saturday when blood was drained from his leg. The minor surgical procedure was completed after the Braves placed him on the disabled list on Friday night.
"The doc said if I didn't go ahead and get it taken out, then it would have been Labor Day before [the blood] would have gotten out of there," Jones said. "I would have been able to play before then. But if I would have fouled a ball off that same spot, it was going to be bad."
Jones is hopeful that he will be ready to play when he is eligible to come off the disabled list on June 8. The 40-year-old third baseman sustained the bruise on May 19 when Rays outfielder B.J. Upton's sharp liner skipped off the Tropicana Field turf and struck his leg.
"I think I should be if not ready, fairly close," Jones said. "We'll just have to wait to see."
When Jones talked to reporters on Friday afternoon, he was in obvious pain. But he had pinch-hit two nights earlier and was hoping he might be able to return to full-time action early next week. That plan was altered a few hours later when backup catcher David Ross suffered a slight right groin strain.
With starting catcher Brian McCann battling a virus and Freddie Freeman dealing with vision problems that still existed Sunday night, the Braves could not afford to continue playing with a short bench and little certainty about when Jones would be ready to play.
"I feel so much better now than I did [before Saturday]," Jones said. "It was throbbing. It let me know with everything that I did. Now, we've relieved a lot of the pressure down there. I can't feel my heartbeat down there anymore."
The Braves have gone 19-5 with Jones in the lineup this year and 7-17 when he has not started. While these numbers have been influenced by the recent absences of McCann and Freeman, the veteran third baseman hopes some of his teammates begin to pick up the slack while he nears the completion of his final season.
"It's frustrating to watch," Jones said. "Somebody has got to step up. They've got 162 games to look forward to next year. Somebody has got to get the big out, get the big hit, make the big play, all of those things you have to do on a daily basis to win ballgames."
McCann may return to action Monday
ATLANTA -- Though Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said catcher Brian McCann was feeling better, after being hampered by the flu for the last week, McCann was not cleared to start Sunday's series finale against the Nationals.
"We almost got him in there," Gonzalez said. "He ran around, he felt better, but then the energy level started deteriorating a little bit."
Gonzalez said McCann was available to pinch-hit Sunday. Gonzalez is hopeful McCann can at least play most of Monday's game against the Cardinals, a move that is more viable because the Braves have three catchers on the roster.
"I said to Mac, 'If you come in tomorrow and feel good, let's give it a shot,'" Gonzalez said. "'If you catch five or six innings, that's three at-bats that we get out of you.' We're going to leave that open for tomorrow."
Backup catcher David Ross remains sidelined by a right groin strain he sustained Friday, though he said he felt better Sunday. Ross is available in an emergency situation and hopes to be back at full strength by Wednesday.Until McCann or Ross is fully healthy, J.C. Boscan, who was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday, will remain in the starting lineup. He went 1-for-4 on Saturday.
Freeman waiting for new prescription glasses
ATLANTA -- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman missed his second straight game and fourth game in the last two weeks on Sunday as he continues to struggle with dry eyes and blurry vision.Manager Fredi Gonzalez reiterated the Braves have to be patient as Freeman waits for the prescription glasses he ordered. Gonzalez said Under Armour and Oakley are both working to make Freeman new glasses to wear during games.
Gonzalez said Freeman will also meet with former Cy Young winner Orel Hershiser, who was in Atlanta as a part of ESPN's broadcast team. Hershiser dealt with a similar problem during his career.
"[Hershiser] basically said, 'It's a process. He's got to be patient, he can't go through 12 pairs of contacts in one night. That isn't going to help,'" Gonzalez said.
Eric Hinske once again took Freeman's spot in the lineup. He was 1-for-10 in the previous three games Freeman missed.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Teddy Cahill is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.