Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann on track to return next week

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According to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said that Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann “did well” during their bullpen sessions Monday.

Davis and Niemann were placed on the disabled list early last week due to shoulder strains. Barring any setbacks, Hickey said they should be on track to be activated next week against the Angels. Davis is projected to pitch next Tuesday, while Niemann will start next Wednesday.

Andy Sonnanstine and rookie left-hander Jeremy Hellickson have filled in during their respective absences, however they are expected to be moved to the bullpen next week.

It’s not like Hellickson deserves it. The 23-year-old right-hander is the first pitcher in the modern era to pitch at least six innings while allowing three hits or fewer in each of his first three major league appearances. He tossed six innings of one-run ball in a win over the Orioles on Sunday. It’s actually a pretty nice problem to have.

Jonny Venters is back in the majors

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The Rays announced on Wednesday that the club purchased the contract of lefty reliever Jonny Venters from Triple-A Durham. The 33-year-old hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to a continuous battle with arm injuries. The Rays note that he has undergone two and a half Tommy John surgeries, which is a number that seems to be in dispute.

Venters signed a minor league contract with the Rays in December. With Durham so far this season, he gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Before the injuries, Venters was among the best relievers in 2010-11. In those two seasons, he posted a combined 1.89 ERA with 189 strikeouts and 82 walks in 171 innings.