Phillies will miss Jonny Venters in opening series

Phillies will miss Jonny Venters in opening series

March 28, 2013, 11:15 am
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The Braves made several high-profile additions this offseason – Justin and B.J. Upton, Jordan Walden – but also lost valuable players in Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, Michael Bourn and Tommy Hanson.

They may have lost even more.

Jonny Venters, Atlanta’s devastating lefty setup man with a 2.23 ERA in 230 appearances the last three seasons, voluntarily left Tuesday's game with a left elbow sprain and will meet with Dr. James Andrews early next week, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Andrews -- an expert on Tommy John surgery –- is a name teams rarely want to hear. Venters has already had the UCL reconstruction procedure, and told the AJC he’s “not too worried” about the elbow, that he didn’t feel a pop.

Still, it’s an ominous sign for the Braves that Venters will likely begin the season on the DL along with starting catcher Brian McCann, starting pitcher Brandon Beachy and utilityman Paul Janish.

Walden has also been banged up this spring. He’s pitched in only four games because of a bulging disc in his back. Fellow reliever Eric O’Flaherty has dealt with back soreness this spring, too.

The bullpen will be key, because Atlanta’s rotation is nowhere near where it has been in recent years. Opening day starter Tim Hudson is reliable at the top, but he’s 37 and last year had his worst ERA since 2006 and lowest strikeout rate since 2004.

After that, the Braves have Kris Medlen (a prime candidate to regress from unsustainable gaudy second-half numbers), Mike Minor (on the rise), Paul Maholm (a steady No. 4 but not much more) and Julio Teheran (Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect). It’s a solid rotation, but not one on par with the Phillies’ or Nationals’ unless everything breaks right.

So while the Braves are well-stocked with relievers to weather the blow of an elbow injury to Venters – Craig Kimbrel, O’Flaherty and Walden are three players to build around – the bullpen is now another unit that faces questions heading into the season.

See? It’s not just the Phillies.

Blue Jays extend Happ
Hard to believe J.A. Happ is already in his final year of arbitration. The Blue Jays gave their fifth starter a one-year extension that covers 2014, which would have been his first year of free agency.

Happ will make $3.7 million in 2013 and $5.2 million in 2014, according to MLB.com.

The former Phillie beat out ex-Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero for the fifth spot in Toronto’s rotation. Romero was sent all the way down to Single-A to work on his mechanics after an 105-walk 2012 season.

Happ went 3-2 with a 4.69 ERA with the Blue Jays in 10 games last season. Since leaving the Phillies at the 2010 trade deadline, he’s 21-30 with a 4.83 ERA for the Astros and Blue Jays.

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