ATLANTA -- Instead of avoiding what will be the greatest challenge he has faced in the baseball world, Jonny Venters has decided to attempt to keep his playing career alive by undergoing a third Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
"It never really crossed my mind to retire, to give up and quit," Venters said. "If I was 38, it might be a little different. I'm only 29. So hopefully, I have my age working for me. We'll see. I'm going to give it a shot."
Venters said he made this decision soon after Dr. James Andrews informed him on Thursday that he had yet another tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his left elbow. Andrews had repaired this same ligament via the Tommy John procedure in 2005 and in '13.
"It was saddening to hear the surgery failed," Venters said. "Looking at a third one is obviously not something you plan for. It is what it is. I've talked to my family and my agent and all the guys; I think it's something I want to do."
Even if Venters undergoes the surgery within the next couple of weeks, he seems destined to remain sidelined until at least the start of the 2016 season. It remains to be seen whether the surgery will ever make the ligament strong enough to sustain the violent arm motion Venters produces during his delivery.
Venters plans to talk to Jason Isringhausen, who is one of the few pitchers who have ever returned to the Major League level after undergoing a third TJ procedure. The Braves veteran fortunately already had a chance to spend some time with Isringhausen over the past couple of years.
It would have been hard to find fault with Venters, had he simply opted to walk away after Andrews delivered the harsh news. The left-handed reliever needed more than the customary 12 months to return from his first TJ procedure. Then, while facing even greater odds during the latest comeback attempt, Venters never reached a point where he could throw in uninhibited fashion off the mound.
When Venters had what proved to be his final setback last week in Pittsburgh, he was 15 months removed from surgery and still struggling to throw harder than 80 mph. In other words, he sustained this tear long before he got close to regaining the 94-mph power sinker that he displayed as he stood as one of the game's premier relievers during the 2010 and '11 seasons.
"I think [Dr. Andrews] was surprised that it failed so early," Venters said. "It wasn't like I was throwing in games or anything like that. I think it was one of those things that it was going to fail no matter what. I think we did everything right with the training staff and my therapy and throwing program. I think we did everything for it to succeed. I just think it was one of those things where it was going to fail no matter what."
Venters posted a 1.89 ERA and limited opponents to a .190 batting average over the Major League-high 164 appearances he made during the 2010 and '11 seasons. He struggled with his command during the first half of the '12 season and spent some time on the disabled list with elbow discomfort in July. When Venters returned after the All-Star break, he posted a 1.71 ERA during what proved to be the only 26 appearances he has made since that DL stint.