David Freese likely out until late July following hand surgery

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David Freese exited yesterday’s game with a broken hand thanks to a Scott Linebrink fastball and today general manager John Mozeliak announced that his return timetable is 9-12 weeks.

According to Mozeliak he’s unlikely to return until late July, which is a big blow to a Cardinals roster already decimated by injuries.

Freese was off to a strong start, hitting .356 with an .865 OPS in 25 games after putting up solid numbers as a rookie last season, and the Cardinals’ options to replace him at third base aren’t very appealing.

Daniel Descalso is getting the start there tonight, Nick Punto and Tyler Greene are light-hitting options, and Allen Craig has some third base experience in the minors if the Cardinals want to sacrifice defense to get his bat in the lineup. Albert Pujols played 1.1 innings at third base yesterday in an emergency situation, but don’t expect to see him back at the hot corner.

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.