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Braves' bullpen forging along despite injuries

ATLANTA -- The Braves had reason to be concerned when they learned reliever Eric O'Flaherty would need to undergo Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

Jonny Venters, who had teamed with O'Flaherty to form a lethal late-inning duo over the previous few years, had undergone the procedure two days earlier. Jordan Walden, the only other seasoned veteran in Atlanta's bullpen, had gone on the disabled list the previous day with right shoulder inflammation.

But in the 15 games that have been played since O'Flaherty was placed on the disabled list, the Braves' bullpen has posted a 2.55 ERA, which ranks as Major League Baseball's fifth-best mark during this span. The Atlanta relief corps has blown four different leads in the sixth inning or later during this span. But just one of those instances resulted in a loss.

"We've got plenty of talent down there," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We'll keep running them out there and giving them an opportunity."

The bullpen has been strengthened by the recent return of Walden, who has worked three scoreless innings since returning from the disabled list last week.

Gonzalez said Monday that he had not received word that veteran right-handed relievers Luis Ayala or Cristhian Martinez are getting close to being activated from the disabled list.

Ayala and Martinez, who has been sidelined for nearly two months because of right shoulder inflammation, have spent the past two days at Turner Field. But this is simply because the Braves' Spring Training complex has been closed this week.

Ayala was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in late April and later learned that some bacteria had formed around his stomach. He lost at least eight pounds and found it hard to regain his energy. But the 35-year-old reliever said he has been feeling much stronger recently.

"As soon as I finished my treatment, I felt so much better," Ayala said. "Now, [I am] going to do the things I did before."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
Read More: Atlanta Braves, Eric O'Flaherty, Cristhian Martinez, Jonny Venters, Luis Ayala, Jordan Walden