Jason Kendall takes “a huge step” in post-surgery comeback

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Jason Kendall took what he called “a huge step” in his recovery from shoulder surgery, participating in live batting practice yesterday for the first time since going under the knife in September.

Kendall’s throwing program has progressed to 100 feet and Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports that he could be cleared for a minor-league rehab assignment by the end of this month.

Kendall hasn’t played in a game since August 30 of last year and hit just .256 with a .615 OPS prior to being shut down, but the Royals’ current catching duo of Matt Treanor and Brayan Pena haven’t been a whole lot better than that with a .224 batting average and .665 OPS this season.

Kansas City is paying the 37-year-old catcher $3.75 million this season as part of a two-year, $6 million contract.

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.