Pirates may be ready to bench struggling Lyle Overbay

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In past years–or past decades, more accurately–the Pirates may have lived with an unproductive veteran first baseman, but with the team in contention for the first time in a long time their patience with Lyle Overbay appears to be running out.

Signed to a one-year, $5 million deal as a free agent, Overbay has hit just .229 with seven homers in 99 games, posting a .646 OPS that ranks 24th among the 26 first basemen with at least 250 plate appearances.

Clint Hurdle indicated to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that increasing Steve Pearce’s playing time at Overbay’s expense is one option, but Pearce has been even less productive in a part-time role with a .636 OPS.

Pursuing another veteran bat via trade makes sense and Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports that the Pirates are interested in Jason Kubel of the Twins. Of course, with Minnesota unsure whether to buy or sell Kubel may ultimately not even be available. Whatever the case, with the Pirates just 1.5 games out of first place and Overbay adding nothing at an offense-driven position it shouldn’t be too tough or too costly to find an upgrade.

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.