Jonny Venters will take another step in his return from a second Tommy John elbow surgery when the Braves left-hander throws flat-ground pitches Sunday. Then in two weeks, he’s scheduled to throw from a mound for the first time since surgery.

“Bullpen on (March) 5th,” he said, smiling. “Slowly but surely, it’s getting there. It feels good. Bouncing back really well. And I’m throwing pretty hard, from 120 feet yesterday.”

This is big stuff for Venters and the Braves, who know how much better their already formidable bullpen could be if the 28-year-old Venters comes back anywhere close to peak form. Venters had a 2.23 ERA in 230 appearances in his first three major league seasons through 2012, with 258 strikeouts in 229-2/3 innings.

That included a spectacular 2011 season when he posted a 1.85 ERA and 1.091 WHIP in 88 innings over 85 appearances – six more appearances than anyone else in the majors.

Venters missed all of last season after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament late in spring training. Dr. James Andrews recommended trying a platelet-rich plasma injection in hopes of healing the ligament without surgery. Venters tried but it didn’t work, and so on May 16 he joined the small fraternity of pitchers who’ve had two Tommy John surgeries.

Now, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Brian Wilson, the former Giants closer who had the second TJ surgery of his career early in the 2012 season and came back strong in the second half last season with the Dodgers.

Wilson had a 0.66 ERA in 18 regular-season appearances, with 13 strikeouts in 13-2/3 innings. He also had six scoreless appearances in the playoffs, including three in the division-series win against the Braves. Venters was encouraged watching him.

“Absolutely,” he said. “That was awesome to see that. Because not many people have come back from two Tommy Johns. But I think it’s becoming more common now. I think guys are starting to get the surgery younger, which means there’s the opportunity to get it a second time.

“Seeing him come back and have the same stuff he had before, it was awesome. I was happy for him. It gave me a little confidence boost.”

Venters had his first Tommy John surgery in 2005 as a minor leaguer. He said the rehab has gone smoother this time, because he knew what to expect and because he hasn’t impatiently pushed the envelope trying to get back sooner than recommended.

He’d like to return around the 12-month mark in mid-May, but has been told it could be a few weeks or a month longer because it’s his second TJ surgery.