Jose Contreras out 4-6 weeks; Phillies may pursue Heath Bell

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Jose Contreras joined Brad Lidge on the disabled list, with Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia writing that he’s expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a strained forearm, and ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports that “the Phillies are asking around about bullpen help.”

Olney doesn’t get into specifics about who’re they’re “asking around about” yet, but did write that Padres closer Heath Bell is “one name to keep an eye on for Philadelphia.”

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently that the Phillies aren’t going to make a big splash at the trade deadline this year, in part because their payroll is maxed out, but obviously that could change or the Padres could eat the $3 million or so Bell is owed for the second half.

Bell is an impending free agent and the Padres are in last place at 32-44, so unless they plan to re-sign him to multi-year contract for elite closer money it would certainly make sense for San Diego to cash him in for prospects by July 31. In fact, with Bell, Mike Adams, and Chad Qualls the Padres should probably be the first call every contending team makes in their search for veteran bullpen help.

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.