Thumbs up from Santana; Updates on Venters, Vasquez

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Thumbs up from Santana; Updates on Venters, Vasquez

Ervin Santana threw a bullpen Wednesday afternoon and came away saying his right thumb felt good. He is on track to return to the rotation Saturday against the Cubs.

“Bueno,” Santana said, as reporters approached, flashing a thumbs up. “Very good, I had no problems. I threw every pitch and everything is good.”

Santana had been nursing a jammed right thumb, which he injured swinging and an inside pitch from Homer Bailey on April 25. He was able to make his next start in Miami but came out after six innings when he had trouble gripping pitches.

“I didn’t feel anything today,” Santana said.

Santana spent the first nine years of his career in the American League with the Angels and Royals but has enjoyed the chance to hit in the National League. He is leading the Braves pitching staff with three hits.

“Next time I have to swing earlier,” said Santana, who accepts that there’s a greater potential for injury. “I know it’s part of the game, and I just have to be prepared for that.”

Injury updates

Jonny Venters is approaching the year anniversary of his second Tommy John surgery, May 16, but is still at least a month away, if not longer, from returning.

Venters just started throwing breaking balls last week on flat ground and recently incorporated them into his bullpen sessions. He is throwing bullpen sessions every third day as he continues to build arm strength. No timetable has been set for his return but it would be mid-June at the earliest.

“It’s been feeling good,” said Venters, who had his first TJ surgery as a minor leaguer in 2006. “Hopefully keep getting better and have it respond quicker and quicker. There are going to be days when you’re sore and days when you feel good. Going to keep grinding and follow the protocol.”

Triple-A Gwinnett right-hander Luis Vasquez was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with an elbow strain and was to be evaluated Wednesday by Braves team doctors.

Vasquez was signed as a minor league free agent out of the Dominican Winter League, throwing mid-to-upper 90s, and a hopeful to make the Braves bullpen out of spring training. But a strained latissimus dorsi muscle hindered the sidearmer’s progress in spring and his Triple-A season has been a struggle. He’s 1-0 with an 11.91 ERA, allowing 16 runs (15 earned) in 11 1/3 innings, with 11 walks and 15 strikeouts.

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