Darvish wants to become “the best pitcher in the world”

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Reason I was out the past few days: trip to Texas. Reason for the trip to Texas: none of your beeswax, frankly, but know this: the entire time I was there I barely heard a single word about the Rangers. Maybe that’s because I was doing way too much of this. Hard to say.

All I know for sure is that the Rangers buzz is going to get pretty big down there pretty soon as everyone wakes up from football season and realizes just how great a race there’s going to be in the AL West this year. And a big part of that is going to be Yu Darvish.

There was a press conference in Tokyo this morning featuring Darvish. Oh, and 10,000 fans too, which tells you what kind of figure Darvish is over there. At the press conference, Darvish set his sights pretty high when explaining his move to the United States to pitch for the Texas Rangers:

“I want to become the kind of pitcher that will make people say ‘Darvish is the No. 1 pitcher in the world’ … I want to feel the thrill of pitching against the world’s best hitters. It was becoming harder to stay motivated in Japan.”

World’s best hitters, huh?  Did anyone tell him just how many games he’s going to have against the A’s, Mariners and Astros over the next several years?

Oh well, I won’t tell him if you won’t. Would hate to disappoint him.

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.