Atlanta Braves reliever Jonny Venters, who hasn't thrown a pitch this regular season, will miss the 2013 season following the second Tommy John surgery of his career.
In his first two years with the Braves (2010-11), Venters was simply incredible as the primary setup man to Billy Wagner (in 2010) and Craig Kimbrel (in 2011), striking out 189 hitters in 171 innings and a 70.4% groundball rate over those two seasons with a vicious fastball/slider combination. But something happened last year, and Venters' velocity dropped below 94 while his groundball rate fell and he allowed twice as many homers in 58 2/3 innings as he did in those first two years combined.
The finger of blame will likely be pointed at Braves managers Bobby Cox and Fredi Gonzalez, who ran Venters straight into the ground during his first two years. His 171 innings pitched from 2010-11 were second in baseball among relievers behind just Tyler Clippard of the Nationals, and he doesn't have anything near the injury history that Venters does.
Where does he go from here? Well, I'm assuming that Atlanta will end up non-tendering Venters after the season. He still has two years of team control left, but the Braves are going to need every cent of available payroll to potentially rebuild their rotation with Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm both reaching free agency after the year. Venters is making $1.625 million this season, and guaranteeing a reliever coming off of his second Tommy John surgery any sort of money similar to that is something that I don't think any team would do. He'll likely end up catching on somewhere on a minor league deal, and if he can regain his 2010-11 form in the second half of 2014, some team may be getting a real bargain.
Atlanta's bullpen probably isn't losing much without Venters for the rest of the year, as Jordan Walden has stepped into Venters' eighth inning role and dominated, despite was his 4.85 ERA might tell you. With Cory Gearrin and Eric O'Flaherty pitching like themselves as well, the Braves pen likely won't miss a beat after the news that Venters' season is over.