Just over a week ago, the Atlanta Braves pulled Jonny Venters from a Spring Training game due to some concerns over the reliever’s arm. The left-hander was diagnosed with a sprain, but the discomfort and inflammation has persisted since, resulting in a visit to famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews. Venters received a plasma-rich platelet injection from Dr. Andrews and will be shut down for at least the next four weeks, according to details passed along by David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Anytime a pitcher is experiencing elbow pain and winds up in Dr. Andrews’ offices, the thought process always turns to Tommy John Surgery. Venters has previously undergone the procedure, following the 2005 minor league season, but results of an MRI performed this week appear to have been inconclusive. Andrews recommended the PRP injection as a possible form of treatment, as others have done in the past. This injection was done with the hope that in conjunction with some rest Venters might be able to return to the Braves bullpen sooner rather than later. PRP is an emerging form of treatment, believed to stimulate growth in healing tissue without the need to perform surgery. The team will monitor his progress once he resumes a throwing program in a few weeks.
If things progress as hoped, Venters could potentially make his way back to the Braves bullpen as early as mid-May. If his elbow doesn’t respond positively to the injection and he ends up needing to undergo Tommy John Surgery once again, his recovery could cut into the 2014 season (depending on how long the team waits before he actually undergoes the procedure).
Venters has been a workhorse for the Braves over the past three seasons, serving as possibly one of the most underrated bullpen pieces in the Major Leagues. He’s made 230 appearances since making his debut during the 2010 season, posting a 2.23 ERA and 1.241 WHIP over that stretch, adding 10.1 K/9 in 229.2 IP. If he is going to miss an extended period of time – which appears to be a real possibility – the Braves will need to overcome that loss. Eric O’Flaherty and Luis Avilan will be asked to take on significant roles out of the bullpen as the team’s chief left-handed options. Right-hander Jordan Walden, acquired over the winter, will also be expected to help out in a setup role ahead of Craig Kimbrel in Venters’ absence.