Bryce Harper struggling since promotion to Double-A

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Bryce Harper is struggling at baseball for what might be the first time in his life.

Promoted from low Single-A to Double-A last week, the former No. 1 overall pick has gone just 6-for-35 (.171) with zero extra-base hits through 10 games against Eastern League pitching.

He’s an 18-year-old in a league where the average player is 24 and skipped high Single-A altogether, so perhaps the struggles shouldn’t be surprising, but it does show any Nationals fans who wanted Harper in Washington already that baseball is really, really hard.

On the fast track since signing with the Nationals, he skipped rookie-ball and earned a quick promotion by hitting .318 with a .977 OPS in 72 games at low Single-A. He’ll get on track at Double-A soon enough and 10 bad games does nothing to alter Harper’s long-term outlook, but whatever slim odds he had of reaching the majors in his first pro season have diminished even further.

And that’s not such a bad thing. Mike Trout made headlines earlier this month for debuting with the Angels at age 19 and he’s 14 months older than Harper. There’s plenty of time and plenty more regrettable tattoos to get before arriving in Washington.

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.