Mariners hit five homers to win Cactus League opener

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The Phillies played Florida St. on Wednesday and there were three more exhibitions between Florida-based MLB teams and colleges today, but the spring season officially started later in the afternoon, with the Mariners and A’s squaring off in the Cactus League opener.

As one would assume with such noted powerhouses playing each other, there were six homers in the game, five delivered by the mighty Mariners on their way to an 8-5 victory. Michael Saunders, who could be the early season replacement for Franklin Gutierrez in center, started it off with a two-run shot off Graham Godfrey in the second. Carlos Peguero, Luis Rodriguez, Jesus Montero and Johermyn Chavez also left the yard in the game.

Utilityman Eric Sogard hit the lone homer for the A’s.

Montero was involved in a scary moment a half-inning after hitting his homer, as he went to the ground after taking a foul tip to the face. He was down for a couple of minutes and he left the game, but reports indicated that he was fine afterwards.

Montero, a catcher in the Yankees’ minor league system, will be the Mariners’ primary DH this season, but he could catch once or twice a week, too.

Also of note from the game was that Manny Ramirez hit cleanup for the A’s and went 0-for-2. And old friend Oliver Perez, launching a long shot bid to make the Mariners as a reliever, allowed one hit in a scoreless fourth inning.

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.