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Posted: 7:17 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Venters hopeful injection means no surgery

By Michael Cunningham

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The optimistic projection is that the platelet-rich plasma injection that Braves relief pitcher Jonny Venters received in his left elbow on Tuesday will alleviate his pain and allow him to pitch as soon as next month.

“Hopefully, this is all I need,” Venters said Wednesday at Turner Field.

But “hope” was the word Venters had to use because it’s not certain the treatment will keep him off the operating table again. He won’t know for sure until he returns to throwing four weeks from now.

Because Venters had Tommy John surgery after the 2005 season, he said the MRI of his elbow is harder to read and thus was inconclusive. Prominent surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who performed Venters’ 2005 surgery, suggested the PRP treatment.

Venters, 28, said the injection “kind of hits everything I need” because it promotes healing, the growth of new cells and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Braves teammate Kris Medlen received a PRP injection during his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery after some tearing of scar tissue.

Even as he’s optimistic about the injection working, Venters said he’s contemplated the worst-case scenario: another surgery for ligament damage.

“It’s always in the back of your mind when you have something like this you don’t know what’s wrong in there,” Venters said. “After talking to a few doctors and Dr. Andrews, they all felt very positive about this PRP shot and it could really knock it out and do the trick. I came out of it really upbeat and positive and I’m going to work as hard as I can and hopefully it works.”

Venters said he felt no pain or instability while undergoing a battery of tests designed for former Tommy John patients. He said he probably won’t be able to tell if the injection provided relief until he’s able to throw the ball.

If all goes well, Venters said a return in late May is plausible.

“Four weeks of no throwing, so depending on how I feel it will be how quick I will be able to ramp it up and get in game situations,” he said. “I just throw the ball whenever they tell me I’m allowed. I will try to push it as fast as I can but whenever they say I’m good to go, I’m good to go.”

For now, Venters is wearing a brace on the arm. The plan is for him to take it easy for a few days and ice the elbow before getting back to running.

Venters has been a bullpen workhorse with 230 appearances since 2010, second to Sean Marshall among major league players. Venters posted a career-high 3.22 ERA in 66 appearances for the Braves last season but was much more effective upon his return after spending nearly three weeks on the disabled list with elbow inflmmation in July.

Atlanta is in position to absorb the loss of Venters because of a quality bullpen that includes left-handers Eric O’Flaherty and Luis Avilan.

“Our bullpen is deep,” Venters said. “I think they will be fine.”

Venters said watching the Braves defeat the Phillies on Monday day was a “weird” experience that he enjoyed, “but it would have been my first opening day in Atlanta and I was kind of bummed I missed that.”

Venters said he would like to travel with the team but that depends on his arm feels and also his wife, Viviana, who is expecting to deliver a baby soon. He said that’s one positive about being on the disabled list.

“I should be able to be home and see the baby be born so that will be good,” Venters said.

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