What fluke? Jose Bautista hitting .364 with AL-high 8 homers

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Last night Jose Bautista homered for the fourth time in four games, giving him a league-leading eight homers on the season despite missing three games due to the birth of his daughter.

Bautista, whose monster 2010 was deemed a fluke by nearly everyone because it came at age 29 and after six totally unremarkable seasons, is now leading the league in batting average (.364), on-base percentage (.517), slugging percentage (.788), and OPS (1.305) in addition to homers and walks.

When the Blue Jays signed Bautista to a five-year, $65 million contract extension in February many people reacted as if they’d made a terrible mistake, assuming that Bautista failing to duplicate his 2010 breakout would leave them regretting the deal. I tried to point out at the time that in reality he certainly doesn’t have to hit 50 homers with a 1.000 OPS to be worth $13 million per season, although right now that seems like kind of a moot point.

Dating back to September 1 of 2009 he’s hitting .270 with 72 homers, 132 walks, and a 1.016 OPS in 208 games, so anyone calling it a “fluke season” should probably at least do Bautista the favor of calling it a “fluke season-and-a-half” at this point. Or maybe just ditch the “fluke” part altogether until he stops leading the league in everything.

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.