Will the Mariners cap Michael Pineda’s innings?

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Buster Olney raises that question this morning, noting that Mariners’ rookie Michael Pineda has thrown 70 innings so far this year and that, before this year, his high was 139.1.  The question he asks is whether the Mariners might cap his innings at some transitional step up — like, say, 170 innings — so as not to overwork the lad.

I don’t know the answer to that. And I don’t know that anyone has a monopoly on wisdom on the subject. As Olney notes, Tim Lincecum was allowed to run wild as a young man and it hasn’t harmed him any.  Other teams are more careful with young arms and have mixed results.

I can’t help but look at Felix Hernandez’s career numbers, however, and think that the Mariners aren’t going to go out of their way to limit him. When Hernandez was 18, they had him jump from 60 to around 149 minor league innings.  The next year he did 80+ innings at both the major league and minor league levels. Starting at age 20 he went 191, 190, 200, 238, 249.

Yes, there was a decent progression with King Felix before he went into full-on workhorse mode, but he was throwing a huge number of innings years before he was Pineda’s age (22). And the Mariners team on which Pineda pitches is only 1.5 games out of first place right now.

My sense — really, just my guess — is that his “big leap” in innings year has already happened, and that unless he starts to lose effectiveness, the M’s are going to let him push 200 innings like they let Hernandez do in his first full season in the majors, when he was two years younger than Pineda is now.

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.