Rays, Maddon closing in on an extension

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As we passed along yesterday, the Rays and Joe Maddon are talking contract extension.  Marc Topkin updates that report this morning, telling us that they are getting really close and that an announcement could happen at any time.

Maddon has led the Rays to the playoffs in the AL East three out of the last four years. But shhhh! Don’t tell anyone that. It totally screws up that whole “no one besides the Red Sox or the Yankees have a shot in that division” narrative that people in Toronto and Baltimore love so much.

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.