The Atlanta Braves will be missing a valuable contributor to their vaunted bullpen for the duration of 2013 and likely the majority of the 2014 season. Jonny Venters visited Dr. James Andrews on Thursday, and as a result, Dr. Andrews performed the dreaded “Tommy John” surgery to repair Venters’ ulnar collateral ligament.
It was the second such surgery for Venters, and while the first came in 2005, it is fairly unusual for a pitcher to undergo the same procedure twice during a career. Initially, Venters tried to avoid going under the knife by taking a platelet-rich plasma injection in early April, but the combination of that and rest didn’t do the job in alleviating the elbow issue, and surgery proved to be the only option.
Venters’ meeting with Dr. Andrews was scheduled as a result of back-to-back failed bullpen sessions (on Thursday and Friday) and as soon as the news broke, the entire Braves community held their collective breath. The recovery time for the surgery has greatly improved in recent years, but a 12-to-18 month timetable is probably about right, and with the surgery taking place this late into the season (and it being his second one), late 2014 is the earliest possible return.
This is a significant blow to the Braves bullpen, as Venters has been one of the best relievers in all of baseball over the past three seasons, sporting a career 2.23 ERA (in 229.2 innings) with a stellar strikeout rate (10.11 per 9) and a miniscule home run rate of 0.35 per 9. In 2012, Venters “struggled” a bit, posting a 3.22 ERA, but there were high hopes for him to return to his previous form. Fortunately for Atlanta, they were able to keep Eric O’Flaherty and acquire Jordan Walden to fill the void that Venters left as a high-leverage reliever.
It will be a long road to recovery for Venters and the thoughts of Braves nation are certainly with him during this time. With that said, the Braves have been operating for much (if not all) of the season as if he wouldn’t be returning so this news isn’t a complete shock. Craig Kimbrel and company are more than capable of picking up the slack, and this injury, while not a positive thing, isn’t of the season-killing variety. Get well soon, Jonny.