March 3, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Jonny Venters (39) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers at ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports complex, Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves Forgotten Southpaw

The Atlanta Braves placed a $1.625 million bet this year that Jonny Venters would be able to pitch effectively at some point this year.

We are still waiting on that bet to pay off, though if you put the reports together, I wouldn’t be adding any side bets just yet.


So What’s Up With Jonny?

Venters had his secondTommy John‘ surgical procedure performed near the end of May 2013 (the first such surgery happened in 2005).  On May 25th, his throwing program was abruptly halted due to elbow soreness.  This was the second time he’s had to interrupt the early rehab process, and this earned him a trip back to see Dr. James Andrews.  That was roughly June 11th.

According to the report at that time, the re-repairs in his arm were “structurally sound”.  At that time, he received a platelet-rich plasma injection – intended to promote healing (has that ever worked?  for anybody?).  He was then shut down for an additional 3-5 weeks.

That brings us to today – 5 weeks and 1 day after the PRP treatment.  There is no new news at this point.  Well, … there is one lone report from USA Today’s Mel Antonen, but frankly that doesn’t jive with anything else we’ve heard:

The Braves will get Jonny Venters back for the bullpen and there’s no doubt they are looking for another starter.

Thanks Mel, but … (a) not real soon, and (b) not unless Tampa Bay opts to give away David Price.



…the Braves are actually said to be actively checking on the availability of left-hand relief pitchers.

the Braves have canvassed the market for a southpaw reliever and could be interested in James Russell of the Cubs and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks.

The Braves badly need lefty bullpen help and particularly like the Red SoxAndrew Miller


Wesley Wright of the Cubs would be another valuable target – and I’d probably rank him third among these possibilities (with Miller/Perez 1st and 2nd).



From better days. August 24, 2012; Jonny Venters (39). Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

You can read two things into this southpaw search:

  • Luis Avilan is fading and needs help.  His ERA is at 4.85 over almost 30 innings and he’s walking too many hitters.  In fact, most of his numbers are up.  Unfortunately, he’s the only lefty in the bullpen.
  • Jonny isn’t going to be marching home soon enough.  And the Braves can’t wait for him.


It’s Not Unexpected

Venters is going through the same kinds of things that we’ve seen from other TJ surgery victims:  a considerable adjustment period as the arm is returned to significant torque and force use after a long layoff.  That combined with the scarring of surgery creates new areas of friction and inflammation.  On top of all this… it is his second recovery/rehab from this procedure, and while the stats are supposedly comparable to 1st-time recoveries there are not a lot of high-level/high-success pitchers who have been able to return to full-time mound effectiveness after doing so.

Given that Jonny will have to start from scratch – yet again – with his throwing program, I cannot imagine him being available to Atlanta until roughly the first of September.  That will be a key date in terms of setting the roster for the post-season.  But in saying this, I’m not thinking about Venters himself – he will be playoff-eligible regardless.  It’s more about whether the Braves will acquire another lefty before then.

But given Venters’ unknown timetable, I have to believe the Braves will indeed push for one of the arms above – and regardless of which player is obtained, an immediate bullpen improvement should be seen.  If Jonny indeed can come back by September, then so much the better.

Right now, that kind of a trade is a much better bet than waiting for Jonny Venters to arrive.


Tags: Atlanta Braves Bullpen Jonny Venters

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