Home Run Derby participants announced; Fielder calls on Weeks

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Both David Ortiz and Prince Fielder called on teammates to help them out in next Monday’s Home Run Derby.  In Fielder’s case, though, it’ll be Rickie Weeks, not Ryan Braun, trying to aid the cause.

With Braun saying he wasn’t interested, it will be Fiedler, Weeks, Matt Kemp and Matt Holliday for the NL squad.  The AL will be represented by Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista and Robinson Cano.

Mark Teixeira turned down the spot that went to Cano.

Holliday got the nod over Lance Berkman, a three-time participant who is currently tied for the NL lead in homers with Kemp.  They have 22 apiece, one more than Fielder.  Weeks has 15, while Holliday has a modest 10 in 61 games.

Besides Berkman, overlooked for the team was Jay Bruce, who ranks fourth in the league with 18 homers, and young slugger Mike Stanton.  Stanton wasn’t scheduled to go to Phoenix, but Marlins teammate and All-Star Gaby Sanchez lobbied for him anyway.

The AL foursome has 74 homers to the NL’s 68 this season.  Bautista leads the majors with 27 homers.  However, none of the other five American Leaguers with at least 20 homers (Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Paul Konerko, Mark Reynolds and Nelson Cruz) made the cut.  Ortiz has 17 homers, Gonzalez 16 and Cano 14.

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.