A.J. Burnett throws four easy innings in minor league game

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Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett took another step forward Sunday morning in his ongoing recovery from a fractured right orbital bone, throwing 54 pitches across four innings in an exhibition game between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.

According to MLB.com’s Tom Singer, Burnett let up one hit and threw 36 of his 54 pitches for strikes.

The 35-year-old will toss a side session Tuesday before opening the regular season with a rehab start April 6 at Single-A Bradenton. If he avoid setbacks, he should join Pittsburgh’s rotation by the end of April.

Burnett was acquired from the Yankees in February for a couple of minor leaguers and cash considerations. He registered a 5.15 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 173/83 K/BB ratio in 190 1/3 innings last year for New York.

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.