A.J. Burnett making speedy recovery from eye fracture

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When A.J. Burnett underwent eye surgery in early March after fracturing his orbital bone during a bunting drill, the Pirates’ doctors guessed that he would be sidelined for 8-12 weeks. But recent reports out of Bradenton, Florida have us thinking the right-hander might beat that timetable altogether.

According to MLB.com’s Tom Singer, Burnett rode a stationary bike and played a light game of catch Saturday in Pirates camp. It was his first workout since the procedure, and he came out of it feeling fine. Originally, the Bucs didn’t think he would be ready for those sort of activities for at least another week.

“Everything went well. I’m happy to be back down here with the guys,” an optimistic Burnett told reporters on Saturday afternoon. “I just got through a pretty good bike routine, so I’ve got some catching up to do. And I worked out a little bit, played some catch. We’ll take it day to day. But, as of right now, it feels good.”

The Pirates acquired Burnett from the Yankees back in mid-February for a couple of minor leaguers and cash considerations. He should be an active member of the Pittsburgh starting rotation by early May.

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.