Corey Hart had two hits in spring debut, is ready for opener

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Corey Hart essentially missed all of spring training following knee surgery last month, but finally saw his first game action yesterday and notched a pair of hits while declaring himself ready for Opening Day.

In addition to the two hits Steve Gilbert of MLB.com notes that Hart also looked fine in right field defensively and “scamper[ed] to third base on an infield hit that followed his double.”

Expect him to be in the Game 1 lineup in right field, which is quite a change from the initial post-surgery timetable that had him likely beginning the season on the disabled list.

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.