The Braves have shut down reliever Jonny Venters after he experienced a setback from his return from Tommy John surgery.
Venters will now visit Dr. James Andrews, the noted elbow surgeon. Venters has had TJ surgery twice – once in 2006 and then again last year.
The number of pitchers who come back from a second Tommy John procedure is low. This news will not sit well with both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, who had their second elbow surgeries in the spring and hope to return next season.
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez should be blamed for Venters’ injury issues. In his first season as the Braves’ manager, Gonzalez overused Venters and fellow relievers Craig Kimbrel and Eric O’Flaherty. Venters pitched in a NL-leading 85 games, while Kimbrel was next with 79 games pitched and then O’Flaherty at 78 games.
That meant the Braves’ top three relievers in 2011 averaged 80.6 games per season. The three were in the top five in the NL in games pitched for the season.
O’Flaherty had Tommy John surgery last season. The Braves failed to re-sign the free agent last winter and he signed with the Oakland A’s. O’Flaherty rejoined the A’s in July and has pitched in 15 games. He has an ERA of 1.26 with 12 strikeouts in 14.1 innings.
The Braves have to hope Kimbrel can stay healthy. They have been smarter in the past few years about his workload, but he is a pitcher that throws hard and was overused in his first full big league season of 2011.
Venters is making $1.625 million this season, the second straight year he has made that amount. The Braves will undoubtedly non-tender Venters this winter. Perhaps they’ll bring him back on a minor league deal to see if he can recover, but this setback is a bad sign and perhaps puts Venters’ career in jeopardy.
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