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Braves reach big league deal with Venters

ATLANTA -- When Jonny Venters returns from his second Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery next summer, he will still be part of a Braves organization that has proved to be loyal to him.

A Major League source confirmed the Braves avoided arbitration by signing Venters to a one-year deal that includes the same $1,625,000 salary the left-handed reliever received while being sidelined throughout the past season. The agreement was made Monday, though the club had not announced the move.

"I'm pumped to be sticking around," Venters said via text message.

There was reason to believe the Braves might non-tender Venters and then re-sign him to a Minor League deal, like they had with Peter Moylan after the Australian reliever had shoulder surgery two years ago. But the Braves took a different approach with Venters, who combined to make a Major League-high 164 appearances for Atlanta from 2010-11.

There is a chance Venters could return to Atlanta's bullpen in late May. But when asked in September, he said he had been told he might be sidelined until at least early June.

It is too early to accurately predict what the Braves should expect from Venters, who was one of the game's top setup relievers before he began experiencing elbow discomfort during the first half of the 2012 season.

After finishing last year in respectable fashion, Venters came to Spring Training this year without much concern. But his elbow began bothering him again during the middle of March, and he was shut down after a painful outing against the Tigers on March 26.

Dr. James Andrews prescribed a month of rest and provided a platelet-rich-plasma injection on April 2. But it did not prevent Venters from requiring the season-ending elbow surgery May 16. This marked the second time in eight years Andrews performed the same procedure on Venters.

Venters will return next year with the hope of aiding a bullpen that will once again include closer Craig Kimbrel. The top candidates to serve as Kimbrel's primary setup men are Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden and David Carpenter.

If Venters is able to regain the power sinker he has shown during the early part of his career, he could certainly be an asset.

In the 164 appearances Venters made from 2010-11, he posted a 1.89 ERA, surrendered three home runs and held opponents to a .300 on-base percentage. The heavy workload seemed to take a toll on him as he compiled a 4.45 ERA and surrendered six home runs in the first 40 appearances he made in 2012. After resting for a couple of weeks on the disabled list, he returned and posted a 1.71 ERA in the final 26 appearances he made that season.

Atlanta Braves, Jonny Venters