ATLANTA — Realistically speaking, the Braves’ dominant bullpen cannot withstand many more hits.
With setup man Jonny Venters out for the season following Tommy John surgery and new setup man Jordan Walden sent to the disabled list with inflammation in his elbow, Atlanta revealed more bad news on Saturday: Eric O’Flaherty, one of the top relievers in baseball over the past few seasons, is out indefinitely with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.
O’Flaherty pitched the eighth inning of Friday’s 8-5 win before complaining of soreness and undergoing an MRI.
It is unknown whether the 28-year-old reliever will undergo surgery.
Much like his bullpen mate Venters, O’Flaherty is headed to see orthopedic specialist and surgeon Dr. James Andrews for further evaluation.
“Obviously you’re hoping that it’s just a sprain and a short DL stint, and you can come back fairly quickly,” Braves general manager Frank Wren told reporters before Saturday’s game against the Dodgers. “But it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case.”
Since 2010, only O’Flaherty’s teammate Craig Kimbrel posted a better ERA among relievers (1.68). In 193 innings over that stretch, he’s blown just nine games and struck out 160 batters with a 2.6 WAR.
The Braves called up Cory Rasmus from Triple-A Gwinnett — the 25-year-old has a 0.93 ERA and is 7-for-7 on save opportunities this season in the minors — and now plan to move forward with an 11-man rotation.
Either way, the injury bug is biting Atlanta. And biting down hard.