Braves reliever Jonny Venters, who is recovering from his second “Tommy John” elbow surgery, agreed to a one-year deal with Atlanta on Thursday. (Reuters)
ORLANDO — Reliever Jonny Venters agreed to a one-year, $1.625 million contract to return to the Braves, who avoided going to arbitration with the left-hander after he missed the 2013 season recovering from his second “Tommy John” elbow surgery.
Recovery from his May 16 surgery is going well and Venters, who’ll be 29 in March, is expected to be ready to pitch in April or May, barring any setbacks. He has a 2.23 ERA in 230 career relief appearances over three seasons, with 258 strikeouts and 110 walks in 229-2/3 innings.
“Arm feels great,” said Venters, who has been throwing for two months. “I’m excited to stay.”
The hard-throwing sinkerballer will make the same salary that he got in 2013, his first year of arbitration eligibility.
The Braves still have 13 more arbitration-eligible players, including closer Craig Kimbrel, starting pitcher Mike Minor and All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, all eligible for the first time, and outfielder Jason Heyward and pitcher Kris Medlen, in their second years of arbitration.
Teams have until Dec. 2 to offer contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, and those who don’t get offers become non-tendered free agents. Reliever Cristhian Martinez seems the most likely non-tender candidate from among the Braves’ arb-eligibles, who also include outfielder Jordan Schafer; pitchers Brandon Beachy and Jordan Walden; and infielders Chris Johnson, Ramiro Pena, Elliot Johnson and Paul Janish.
One of baseball’s dominant relievers during his first two seasons, Venters was an All-Star in 2011, when he posted a 1.84 ERA in a majors-leading 85 appearances and struck out 96 batters in 88 innings.
After posting a 1.89 ERA in 171 innings over two seasons, he was slowed by elbow problems in 2012 and had a 3.22 ERA in 58-2/3 innings, with twice as many homers allowed (six) as he had in his first two seasons combined.
Venters tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow in the last week of spring training in 2013 and tried to rehab the injury without surgery, at the suggestion of Dr. James Andrews. But after the platelet-rich plasma injection procedure and four weeks of rest didn’t have much effect, Andrews operated on Venters for the second time.
Andrews also did Venters’ Tommy John surgery after the 2005 minor-league season.
Former Giants closer Brian Wilson pitched well in the second half of the 2013 season and playoffs with the Dodgers after returning from his second Tommy John surgery. Wilson was back throwing in the mid-90 mph range and allowed one run and 12 hits with 21 strikeouts in 19-1/3 innings.