Smoltz expects to make Red Sox debut next week

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During a radio interview this morning John Smoltz said
that he expects to make his Red Sox debut on either Tuesday or
Wednesday of next week “if everything goes the way it continues to go.”

Smoltz’s
arrival in Boston has been pushed back slightly, so he’ll make one
additional minor-league rehab start than initially expected after
allowing four runs in six innings last week at Triple-A.

Regardless
of whether his first start comes Tuesday or Wednesday it would be
against the Nationals, but interestingly starting Tuesday would line
him up to face the Braves in his second outing. If you’re into drama,
that’s the scenario to root for.

As of now Brad Penny is lined up
to pitch Tuesday, with Jon Lester slated for Wednesday, but there’s
been tons of speculation about Penny being traded to clear a spot for
Smoltz. Normally it would be a mistake to give up an asset like Penny
to make room for a pitcher who a) may not be a significant upgrade, and
b) comes with plenty of injury risk.

However, as Bob discussed this morning
Boston would still have plenty of rotation depth even if Penny is
traded and Smoltz’s comeback hits a snag. In fact, the Red Sox’s
overall pitching depth is so plentiful that Ken Rosenthal of
FOXSports.com reports that they’ve been shopping setup man Takashi Saito in the hopes of swapping him for a prospect.

Penny
has a 4.10 ERA and 38/9 K/BB ratio in eight starts since a poor April
and Saito has a 2.42 ERA with a 22/7 K/BB ratio in 22.1 innings
overall, which tells you how stacked the Red Sox are with quality arms.
Boston’s bullpen leads baseball with a 3.01 ERA and for now at least
MLB-ready top prospects Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden rank as the
team’s No. 7 and No. 8 starters.

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.