Eric O’Flaherty has torn ulnar collateral ligament in elbow, Tommy John surgery next?

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UPDATE: It looks like Eric O’Flaherty is facing the worst-case scenario, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that he was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. He’ll see Dr. James Andrews next week, but it would be a surprise if Tommy John surgery wasn’t the next step. The Braves’ bullpen suddenly looks quite vulnerable.

5:10 PM: The Braves’ bullpen took another hit this afternoon, as left-hander Eric O’Flaherty was placed on the disabled list with a strained left elbow. No word yet on the severity of the injury, but we should know more following an MRI.

As our own Drew Silva notes, O’Flaherty will join Jonny Venters, Jordan Walden, Luis Ayala and Cristhian Martinez on the disabled list. Venters is done for the season after Tommy John surgery while Walden was just placed on the disabled list yesterday. Meanwhile, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that neither Ayala nor Martinez are close to returning. Craig Kimbrel better invest in some bubble wrap and/or body armor.

Like Venters, O’Flaherty has been a trusted workhorse for the Braves for a few years now, posting a 1.95 ERA in 295 appearances dating back to 2009. Only Brad Ziegler, Carlos Marmol, and Luke Gregerson have appeared in more games in the same timespan.

The Braves have called up right-hander Cory Rasmus to replace O’Flaherty on the active roster. Colby’s brother has a 3.67 ERA over parts of seven seasons in the minors, including a 0.93 ERA and 21/9 K/BB ratio over 19 1/3 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett this season.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.