Charlie Manuel: “No way in hell we overused Jose Contreras”

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Jose Contreras was placed on the disabled list Sunday with a right flexor pronator strain and manager Charlie Manuel was questioned about whether the reliever’s recent heavy workload led to the elbow problems.

Not only did Manuel deny that premise, he did so very strongly. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com has the details:

I feel like, first of all, there’s no way in hell we overused Contreras. That’s how I feel. There’s no way. What did he pitch? The most [consecutive] games was three. Then he had a day off. He pitched five times in seven days. We weren’t trying to stay away from him. He was closing games. That’s how I look at it.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. commented that Contreras “had been pitching quite a bit” when the DL stint was announced, but he later clarified that he wasn’t criticizing Manuel’s handling of the 39-year-old. Manuel was asked if anyone in the front office said anything to him about pitcher workloads and responded: “That’s none of your business.”

Manuel no doubt had various reasons for using Contreras so often, not the least of which is that closer Brad Lidge was on the disabled list already, but ultimately a 39-year-old reliever pitching five times in seven days qualifies as a very heavy workload. I’m sure even Manuel would admit that if there wasn’t criticism attached.

Last but not least, my favorite part of Manuel’s rant when questioned about Contreras came when one reporter told him criticism is “the nature of the game” and he replied: “I don’t think I look like a nature boy.” That’s a funny quote coming from anyone, but becomes downright hilarious if you’ve ever seen and heard Charlie Manuel. Excuse me, Charlie “Not A Nature Boy” Manuel.

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.