Piniella out-La Russas La Russa

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In case you missed it, there was some fun stuff in last night’s Cubs-Cardinals game:

Angel Guzman started the ninth, and the first two Cardinals batters
got on base via a hit and an error. Guzman was lifted for [Sean]
Marshall, who walked pinch-hitter Nick Stavinoha to load the bases.

Piniella then moved Marshall to left field and pulled outfielder
Alfonso Soriano from the game. Aaron Heilman came in to face
right-handed-hitting Brendan Ryan and struck him out.

Piniella then made another double-switch and put Marshall back as
pitcher, and Reed Johnson was inserted into left field. Marshall struck
out pinch-hitter Jarrett Hoffpauir. Colby Rasmus then lofted the ball
to left, and Johnson made a diving catch to end the inning.

I’ve seen that before — and here’s a great account of it happening with the fun old ’86 Mets — but it’s certainly not the kind of thing that happens too often. Some commenters over at my other blog
are suggesting that, if a manager was inclined to do this more often,
maybe it could become some radical new efficiency in that he could
forever go lefty-righty-lefty with only two pitchers if he wanted to,
although I believe that’s against the rules now as switcheroos like
that are limited. Even if they weren’t, however, I think such an
experiment would last until the exact moment a loogy misplayed a fly ball, and then it would never happen again, but it was fun while it lasted.

I think there were only two reasons for Piniella doing this last night.
First: it was just before the All-Star break and, like a classroom on
the last day of school before summer vacation, rules get bent and a
little zaniness is allowed. Second: the opposing manager was Tony La
Russa, who has never met a double switch, weird strategy, or pitching
change he doesn’t like, and Piniella simply decided to show him that he
cannot be out-crazied, even by Genius La Russa.

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.