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O’Flaherty returns to Braves on minor-league contract

OXON HILL, Md. – The Braves re-signed left-hander Eric O’Flaherty to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, where the veteran reliever gets another chance to revive his career for the team with which he had his greatest success.

O’Flaherty, 31, struggled with a 6.91 ERA in 39 appearances in 2016 in his second career stint with the Braves, and his season ended when he went on the disabled list Aug. 19 with neuritis (inflammation of a peripheral nerve) in his pitching elbow.

O’Flaherty had surgery and said he would start throwing again next week, and he’s expected to be ready for spring training. He also had a DL stint for a right knee strain earlier in the summer.

Before his second DL stint, he pitched with a knot in his elbow from the neuritis until the discomfort became too great and he was unable to get arm extension to complete his pitches. He had an 8.24 ERA in his last 23 appearances.

The Braves were desperate for left-handed help when they traded for him with a week remaining in spring training. They knew he wouldn’t be the top-shelf reliever he was for them from 2009 until Tommy John surgery in 2013, but they thought O’Flaherty had enough to help on the field and be a great influence on young pitchers with his tireless work ethic and leadership.

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What they weren’t counting on was the two injuries that slowed him. Still, the Braves liked the impact he had once again on younger pitchers, and now they’ll give O’Flaherty another shot after having his elbow repaired again.

The ground-ball specialist had a 1.95 ERA in 276 appearances over four seasons through 2012, including a 1.31 ERA in 131 innings during 142 appearances over the last two seasons of that period. In 2011 he posted a 0.98 ERA in 78 appearances and a career-high 73 2/3 innings.

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