Braves reliever Jonny Venters underwent a second ligament transplant surgery on his pitching elbow Thursday in Pensacola, Fla.
A visit to Dr. James Andrews confirmed he would need “Tommy John” surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament, the same surgery Venters had after his 2005 season in the minor leagues. Now it will cost him the rest of the 2013 season and part, if not, all of 2014.
Venters had hoped to avoid surgery after having a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow April 2 and resting for four weeks. When he began throwing again two weeks ago on flat ground, he was encouraged. But once he started throwing when off the mound, the soreness returned.
Venters cut a mound session short on Thursday in San Francisco. He threw off a mound again on Friday and had to stop after 15 pitches because of discomfort. The Braves scheduled a visit with renown surgeon Dr. Andrews on Thursday morning in Pensacola, Fla.
An MRI taken April 1 did not definitively show whether Venters had a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. Andrews explained images can be unclear with previous Tommy John patients.
Success rates for the initial operation are high and pitchers typically come back closer to the 12-month estimation than the 18 months some require. Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen both came back close to the one-year mark and Brandon Beachy is on target to do the same in June. But pitchers who need a second transplant operation typically require closer to the 18-month mark.
The overall success rates aren’t as high, either, for pitchers coming back from a second transplant surgery, though the sample size is smaller. Estimations range from 10 to 25 percent for those pitchers returning to pitch effectively in the major leagues.
Among the pitchers who made it back on the field after a repeat transplant surgery include Doug Brocail, who pitched seven seasons after a second operation at age 35, Al Reyes, who pitched two seasons with Tampa after surgery at age 34, and Jason Isringhausen, who had “Tommy John” surgery three times and pitched until he was 40.