0

Venters to rest for a month and hope

ATLANTA -- Jonny Venters has avoided elbow surgery at least for the moment, but his extended absence from the Braves bullpen is sure to increase the role of fellow left-hander Luis Avilan.

Off his performance in the Braves' opening 7-5 victory over Philadelphia on Monday night, the native of Venezuela appears capable of handling the extra responsibility.

Avilan, 23, got a big strikeout of Ryan Howard and left the bases loaded in the fifth inning after relieving starter Tim Hudson, then pitched a scoreless sixth. He "did a terrific job," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Now Avilan's appearances will likely come later in games as he and right-hander Jordan Walden try to make up for the absence of Venters.

Venters received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his ailing elbow from Dr. James Andrews in Florida on Tuesday and will be shut down for four weeks before starting a throwing program.

At best, Venters will likely be sidelined until late May or early June. An MRI of his elbow on Monday was inconclusive, according to Braves general manager Frank Wren.

For now, the diagnoses is still a sprain and the Braves hope that the inflammation will be taken care of by the PRP injection and rest. Dr. Andrews performed Tommy John elbow surgery on Venters in 2005 when the pitcher was in the minors.

Venters, 28, had to leave a Grapefruit League game against Detroit on March 26. The good news was that he didn't hear a pop and that is often the case with a ligament tear.

Since joining the Braves in 2010, Venters has appeared in 230 games. The only pitcher with more appearances is Cincinnati's Sean Marshall with 231.

Venters posted a 1.59 ERA over 164 appearances in his first two seasons, but struggled early last season before going on the disabled list. He finished with a 5-4 record and 3.33 ERA in 66 games.

Avilan was a pleasant surprise for the Braves last season after being promoted from Class AA Mississippi in early July. He appeared in 31 games and was 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA and had 33 strikeouts to 10 walks in 36 innings.

Notes: LHP Paul Maholm, who didn't allow an earned run in his last 24 innings of spring training, will start for the Braves tonight in the middle game of the opening three-game series against Philadelphia at Turner Field. RHP Roy Halladay is scheduled to pitch for the Phillies. ... The three homers that the Braves hit in the opener off LHP Cole Hamels matched their season-opening output at Philadelphia in 2009. 1B Freddie Freeman was 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs this time, while Dan Uggla and Justin Upton -- in his Braves debut -- also went deep. ... 3B Juan Francisco will get the start against Halladay after 3B Chris Johnson had a double and single in the opener. The two will start the season in a platoon. ... RHP Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth inning to record his first save in an opener.