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Venters has torn UCL, faces third Tommy John surgery

Venters has torn UCL, faces third Tommy John surgery play video for Venters has torn UCL, faces third Tommy John surgery

NEW YORK -- After spending the past few months battling the frustration that came courtesy of his attempt to return from a second Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, Jonny Venters received some jarring news on Thursday, when Dr. James Andrews informed him that he had torn the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow for a third time.

If Venters decides he wants to attempt to pitch again, he would need to undergo Tommy John surgery for a third time. The odds of returning would be even slimmer than those the left-handed reliever faced during this latest comeback attempt. But with this startling revelation still fresh, Venters' agent BB Abbott said his client is "collecting information and weighing alternatives."

"You hate for players to get hurt," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "[Venters] is a young guy. He's not even 30 years old. It happens all the time. But when it happens to one of your guys you feel bad for him."

When Venters arrived at Spring Training this season, thoughts of him returning to Atlanta's bullpen at some point in June were tempered by the reality that many other pitchers had previously struggled in their attempt to return from a second Tommy John surgery.

Venters' attempt to make a successful return never really gained momentum. He experienced some elbow discomfort most of this summer and he seemed to become even more discouraged after he was cleared to begin throwing off a mound in July. He recently estimated that his fastball was traveling in the neighborhood of 80 miles per hour.

"We couldn't get him past the hump," Gonzalez said. "We really didn't ramp him up that much. He was playing catch and [completing] some side sessions. The most he ever cranked up was at 50, 60 or 70 percent. There was always discomfort there."

As the past few weeks elapsed, Venters never came close to looking like he did when he was throwing 95-mph power sinkers just a few years ago. He posted a 1.89 ERA and limited opponents to a .190 batting average over the Major League-high 164 appearances he combined to make during the 2010 and '11 seasons.

Venters struggled with his command during the first half of the 2012 season and spent some time on the disabled list in July. When he returned after the All-Star break, he produced a 1.71 ERA during what proved to be the only 26 appearances he has made since that DL stint.

After battling elbow discomfort throughout Spring Training the next year, Venters underwent his second Tommy John surgery in May 2013, approximately eight years after undergoing his first.

Now Venters will have to decide whether he wants to follow in the footsteps of Jason Isringhausen, Jose Rijo and the few other pitchers who have attempted to return after having the elbow's UCL surgically repaired for a third time.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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