Bryce Harper smacks RBI single in first pro plate appearance

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For Nationals prospect Bryce Harper, adversity has not been a common life theme.

The Las Vegas native was drafted first overall in last summer’s MLB Amateur Draft at the age of 17 and inked a seven-year, $9.9 million major league contract in August. Then this winter, without an ounce of professional experience to his name, Harper was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the entire game by Baseball America.

Harper is going to hit speed bumps. He’s human, he’s incredibly young, and baseball isn’t an easy sport for anyone. But that theme of everything-gone-right continued on Thursday evening for the youngster.

According to the Associated Press, via NBCSports.com, Harper went 2-for-4 with an RBI tonight in his debut for Single-A Hagerstown. It was his first game of professional ball.

He smacked a run-scoring single to shallow center field in his first pro plate appearance and then bunted his way on in his next at-bat. Harper was retired in his final two looks but Hagerstown pulled out a 3-2 victory.

The 18-year-old should have no trouble posting massive numbers at the low level of minor league baseball. If things go right, he could be in consideration for a big league roster spot by the summer of 2012.

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.