Braves reliever Jonny Venters faces another year of rehab if he wants to return to the majors following his second Tommy John surgery Thursday.
ATLANTA — Jonny Venters hoped for the best. So, obviously, did the Braves.
But those hopes went out the window Thursday when the team announced that the left-handed reliever had undergone a second Tommy John elbow surgery.
Venters appeared in more than half of the games the Braves played during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, he earned the nickname “Everyday Jonny.”
Now the left-handed reliever can simply hope another day will come when he is able to pitch again.
Andrews gave Venters a platelet-rich-plasma injection on April 2 with the hope it would repair damaged tissue and allow the 28-year-old reliever a chance to pitch again this season. Venters rested his arm for four weeks. But his optimism turned to discouragement when he felt immediate left elbow discomfort while throwing off a mound for the first time in more than a month last week in San Francisco.
“It didn’t feel very good,” Venters said before leaving the team over the weekend and returning to Atlanta, which were 5-3 losers at Arizona on Wednesday before taking Thursday off in preparation for a series with the Los Angeles Dodgers that begins today in Atlanta.
Venters was on the disabled list last July with a left elbow impingement, and he encountered multiple setbacks after undergoing his first Tommy John elbow surgery in 2005.
He experienced some discomfort during the final two weeks of this year’s Spring Training, and the Braves shut him down for 10 days after he issued four walks in one inning against the Cardinals on March 13.
Venters made 230 appearances over the course of the past three seasons, with 164 of those coming in 2010 and ‘11. Entering this year, the only pitcher with more appearances since the start of the 2010 season was Cincinnati’s Sean Marshall (231). The heavy workload appeared to take a toll on Venters, as he compiled a 4.45 ERA and surrendered six home runs in his first 40 appearances last year. In the 164 appearances Venters had made during the previous two seasons, he posted a 1.59 ERA, surrendered three home runs and held opponents to a .300 on-base percentage.
Dr. Andrews first performed a Tommy John operation on Venters prior to the 2006 season and the odds of a complete recovery after a second surgery are not nearly as promising.
Losing Venters is a major blow to a Braves bullpen that has not been as effective recently as it was early in the season.
The 29-year-old was second in the majors with 230 relief appearances the past three seasons and was dominant in 2010 and 2011, when he posted ERA marks of 1.95 and 1.84, respectively.
Venters began to show the wear and tear last season as he spent time on the disabled list and saw his ERA jump to 3.22.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH HUDDIE?: Tim Hudson suffered his first loss in 10 career starts vs. Arizona on Wednesday when good friend and former Oakland teammate Eric Chavez drove in three runs against him. Chavez had a two-out, two-run double the opposite way to left-center in a four-run fifth inning.
“I felt really good out there pitching. I didn’t think they were on the fastball all day. When I got in trouble, I got in trouble with some off-speed stuff,” he said. “It’s frustrating. I thought I made some good pitches to Chavez, especially the last one, a backdoor cutter. But he stayed with it and hit it the other way,” Hudson said. Hudson, 37, had been 7-0 with a 1.33 ERA against the D-backs while allowing two runs in the previous 38 innings in a run that began in 2006.
HEYWARD TO RETURN TODAY?: Jason Heyward (appendectomy) is a candidate to join the Braves when they return home for a three-game series today, although no decision has been made. Heyward was 5-for-17 with a double and six RBI in his first five rehab games at Triple-A Gwinnett and played right field Monday and Tuesday.
“Try to get him in shape. Get his legs under him. Keep our fingers crossed that he will be ready when we get back home,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
MAHOLM GETS THE NOD: Starter Paul Maholm will make his ninth start of the season against Los Angeles while trying to build on his recent success against the Dodgers. Maholm beat the Dodgers while with the Chicago Cubs last May 4, his first victory against them in nine starts and six decisions. Maholm opened the season 3-0 and did not allow a run in his first 20 1/3 innings, but since is 1-4 with 21 runs in 27 2/3 innings.
UPTON CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE: CF B.J. Upton was 0-for-5 in his return to the lineup, grounding out as the tying run for the final out of the game. Upton was held out of Tuesday’s game after being hit by a pitch in the left shoulder in the sixth inning of a 10-1 victory over Arizona on Monday. He was 0-for-7 in the series to drop his batting average to .145, the lowest among National League qualifiers. Minnesota CF Aaron Hicks was hitting .143. Upton also has 49 strikeouts in 131 at-bats.
MOVING UGGLA NOT HELPING: 2B Dan Uggla has hit in the No. 2 spot in the batting order three times this season as manager Fredi Gonzalez looked to get him back on the right track, but it has not been the answer. Uggla, who was given Wednesday off, is 0-for-11 with 10 strikeouts and a walk as the No. 2 hitter, the last coming last Saturday at San Francisco. Uggla is hitting .191 with seven homers, 13 RBIs and 52 strikeouts in 131 at-bats.