Braves reliever Venters re-tears elbow ligament

Braves left-handed reliever Jonny Venters tore his elbow ligament for the third time in his career, the team announce on Thursday. Now, his MLB career is uncertain.

Braves reliever Jonny Venters owns a 2.23 career ERA in three seasons.

Derick Hingle / USA TODAY Sports

Braves reliever Jonny Venters, once considered one of the premier left-hander bullpen arms in baseball, could be headed to his third Tommy John surgery.

An MRI with Dr. James Andrews revealed Venters tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm once again, the team announced on Thursday afternoon.

Venters underwent his second Tommy John surgery in May 2013 and had yet to make an appearance during the 2014 campaign while rehabbing the ligament. He also had the ligament repaired when he was a minor league pitcher back in 2005.

Now, the 29-year-old has a decision to make: try the procedure and extensive, year-long rehabilitation process once more or consider other alternatives, including retirement. 

"I feel for the young man," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters in New York City prior to the team's game against the Mets. "He's a young guy, he's not even thirty years old yet."

When Venters was healthy, he was a vital part of Atlanta's bullpen. In 2010 and 2011, he served as the primary setup man for All-Star closers Billy Wagner and Craig Kimbrel, posting a 1.89 ERA in 171 innings pitched. That qualified for the second-most innings pitched and sixth-best ERA among qualified relievers during that two-season stretch.

He was not quite as successful during the 2012 season (58 2/3 innings, 3.22 ERA), but it's clear that when he was right he was a valuable commodity, one the Braves were hoping to add to their relief corps earlier in the season.

A 2012 Washington Post story on three-time Tommy John surgery survivor Jason Isringhausen -- who underwent his third such surgery in 2009 before pitching in the 2011 and 2012 seasons for the Mets and Angels -- cited that while Tommy John success rates are as high as the 90th percentile, the rates of the second and third such surgeries are much lower. One surgeon cited second procedures on the elbow ligament with success rates in the 60th percentile, and third procedures even lower.

Venters, obviously, is facing an uphill battle to make it back to the major leagues. He's known that since the last time he tore the ligament. Where he decides to go from here remains unknown.