Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte getting close to returning

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Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte participated in a simulated game this morning, according to Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger.

With Reggie Jackson calling balls and strikes and Yankees manager Joe Girardi observing, Pettitte threw 50 pitches over three simulated innings against A-Rod, Greg Golson and Ramiro Pena. He reported no problems with left groin.

“It felt better each inning I went out there,” Pettitte said. “I felt
like the last inning I turned it up pretty good and wasn’t worrying
about anything at all.”

The veteran left-hander hopes to throw a bullpen session Monday before facing live hitters Wednesday, either in the form of another simulated game or in the minor leagues. Barring any setbacks, he still has enough time to make a couple starts before the end of the regular season.

As for Rodriguez, in addition to facing Pettitte, he participated in batting practice, took grounders and ran the bases. 

“I feel good,” he said. “It was an encouraging day. No setbacks.”

He declined to say whether he would be activated from the disabled list when he is eligible tomorrow, but all signs are pointing in that direction. Rodriguez has been on the disabled list since August 21 due to a left calf strain.

For all the problems the Yankees have had with their rotation lately, things are looking pretty good for the Yankees right now. They enter play Saturday with a seven-game winning streak and lead the Rays by 1 1/2 games in the American League East.

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.