Astros exercise 2012 option on manager Brad Mills, add 2013 option to contract

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Brad Mills went 76-86 in his first season as Houston’s manager, including 40-33 in the second half for the NL’s fourth-best record after the All-Star break, and today the Astros picked up his 2012 option while adding a 2013 option to his contract.
Houston looked like the worst team in baseball through about one-third of the season, but after starting 17-34 they went 59-52 over the final four months despite trading away both Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman.
I’m skeptical about the Astros’ chances of building on that success in 2011 because right now their roster looks pretty lacking for a season-long contender, but after misguidedly putting off a true rebuilding effort they finally appear headed in the right direction under Mills.

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.