Must-Click Link: “They took Pipo! They took Pipo!”

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In Sports Illusdtated, Thomas Lake and Melisa Segura have an in-depth story about the kidnapping of Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos last November.

It’s fascinating simply as a straight-forward telling of the story of how Ramos was kidnapped, the conditions he faced in captivity and how he was freed.  But it’s also fascinating in relaying how many Venezuelans don’t believe the official account of the government and of Ramos.  Rather, conspiracy theories have cropped up about almost every aspect of it, ranging from the reasons Ramos was in a position to be kidnapped — some think he was chasing a girl — to how he was freed — some think that, rather than a firefight in the mountains, Miguel Cabrera paid the ransom.

It’s a great story that reads like a mystery. Highly recommended.

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.