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

Jonny Venters Tears UCL Again

Last year Jonny Venters had his second TJ surgery to repair a torn UCL. Last week his rehab was shutdown because of pain in that elbow. Today we found out why and the news  wasn’t good.

Venters rehab and possibly his career is over. Today the Braves announced that a visit to Dr. James Andrews found out why his elbow was once again giving his trouble; his UCL is torn for the third time. Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez tried to remain positive but this news is anything but.

”They did an MRI and he re-tore it,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ”One of the options is for him to have the third Tommy John.”

Yes that is an option but the odds of a return for Venters have to be infinitesimal. To date 44 major league pitcher have had multiple UCL repair surgeries and just a handful have come back to anything resembling their former selves. That number increases as the age for the second TJ decreases; Venters will be 30 in March

Statistically once you have your first surgery you’ll have a second in about seven years and JV hit that timeline exactly. His first surgery came after  he tore his UCL in the 2005 season and the second at the beginning of 2013. Recommended rehab time from a second is 18 months but players and teams seem to be pushing the envelope to get their arms back. By that timeline Venters wouldn’t have been ready before October but we kept hearing he’d be back earlier. Whether that was a factor we’ll never know. What’s clear is that he’s probably thrown his last pitch for the Braves.

That’s A Wrap

Signing Venters in the first place was more a thank you for his work in 2012 (or acknowledgement that he’d been overworked.) The odds were always against his return this season and now his future looks bleak. If he does return history says he will have lost velocity and possibly the ability to locate. The elbow is a small enclosure as Dr. Andrews has said many times nothing is so bad that surgery can’t make it worse. It gets worse in the elbow because surgery generates scar tissue. That scar tissue can itself be enough to end a career. The second time you initiate a repair even more scar tissue is created and the space within the joint gets smaller. Effectiveness after a third UCL repair is problematic at best.

I wish the news were better and knowing Venters tenacity he’s likely to give it a try. If he does I wish him luck. On the other hand no one would blame him if he decided to call it a career. He’s certainly earned every penny the Braves paid him and more, perhaps it’s time to try something new.

Tags: Atlamta Braves Tommy John Surgery

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