Chien-Ming Wang makes first professional start since July of 2009

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Davey Johnson is understandably grabbing most of the headlines at the moment, but another item of significance to the Nationals went down in Hagerstown, Maryland earlier this evening.

Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington reports that Chien-Ming Wang allowed two runs on four hits over three innings in his first minor league rehab start with Class A Hagerstown. On the long road back from shoulder surgery, this was his first professional appearance of any kind since July 4, 2009 as a member of the Yankees.

Wang threw 49 pitches while striking out three, walking none and and hitting a batter. Those numbers don’t tell us much, but one encouraging tidbit is that six of his nine outs were recorded via the groundball.

Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports that the 31-year-old right-hander topped out at 90 mph during tonight’s outing, but mostly sat in the 86-88 mph range. Wang averaged just over 93 mph on his fastball back in 2006, but was at 91.8 mph with his heater in 2008 and 2009.

The Nationals have been extra patient with Wang over the past 17 months, so don’t look for that to change now. He’s going to need to make it through several rehab outings in one piece before having a realistic shot at pitching in the major leagues again.

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.