King Felix and Prince Pineda? Mariners hand rotation spot to 22-year-old top prospect

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This morning’s news that the Mariners have optioned Luke French to Triple-A makes it all but official: Stud prospect Michael Pineda has secured a spot in the Opening Day rotation at age 22.

Pineda was big when the Mariners signed him out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old in 2005, but now he’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds. And he has the high-90s fastball and dominant results to match, splitting last season between Double-A and Triple-A while posting a 3.36 ERA and 154/34 K/BB ratio in 139 innings.

Last month Baseball America ranked him as the No. 16 prospect in all of baseball and Pineda apparently won the job with a 2.12 ERA and 15/6 K/BB ratio in 17 innings this spring.

Seattle’s offense may still be terrible this season and starting Pineda’s service time clock ticking seems like an iffy call, but the thought of Pineda developing into a top-of-the-rotation starter alongside the top-of-the-rotation starter Felix Hernandez should help Mariners fans get through the year in one piece.

Would it be too corny to call them King Felix and Prince Pineda?

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.