Former major leaguer Oscar Azocar dies at 45

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Oscar Azocar, who played with the Yankees and Padres during a three-season career that began in 1990, passed away Monday in a Venezuelan hospital. He was 45.
Originally a pitching prospect, Azocar had a 2.30 ERA over 168 1/3 innings in his first three seasons in the Yankees farm system. Arm problems played a role in his conversion to the outfield in 1987. He reached the majors as a 25-year-old in 1990 and hit .248/.257/.355 in 214 at-bats for the Bombers. He excelled at making contact no matter where the ball was thrown, and he had just 15 strikeouts and two walks as a rookie.
After the 1990 season, Azocar was traded to the Padres for Mike Humphreys. He went on to hit .204/.239/.240 in 225 at-bats with San Diego over the following two years. He vanished from the U.S. after that, but he continued playing baseball until 2001.
Popular in his native Venezuela, he was one of two inductees into the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, joining Wilson Alvarez. He played in three Caribbean Series for Venezuela.

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.