Jason Heyward is in the Best Shape of His Life

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Jason Heyward had a couple of problems last year: his health, adjusting to pitchers who — shockingly — decided to make him hit good pitches rather than challenging him with fastballs and being jerked around in terms of playing time and batting order and stuff.  All of those things are classic ingredients for a sophomore slump, and he had a big one.

One thing that didn’t seem like a problem, however, was his conditioning. That’s one tall, muscular and — at least as far as can be ascertained from seeing him in uniform — lean young man.  But apparently there was room for improvement.  Dave O’Brien of the AJC:

For the record, the nearly 6-foot-5 right fielder has gone from an imposing, chiseled 256 pounds to a chiseled, imposing 235. In terms to which some of our readers may better relate, Heyward’s gone from D-1 defensive end to D-1 tight end.

A reader also tells me that Peter Gammons was on the radio last night and said that “Jason Heyward is in the best shape of his life.”

Assuming this qualifies as an official BSOML story — and I think it does — Heyward is now, at 22, the youngest BSOML dude this year, passing up the 23 year-old Chris Tillman.

Congratulations, Jason. It’s gonna be hard for anyone to top you here.

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.