Rays shut out Yankees to complete three-game sweep

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Jeremy Hellickson allowed three hits over 8 2/3 innings Sunday as the Rays beat the Yankees 3-0 to complete a three-game sweep to start the season.

Hellickson was removed after walking Nick Swisher with his 118th pitch of the afternoon. Fernando Rodney took over and got a one-out save for the second straight day.

The Rays got another homer in this one from Carlos Pena. Including the grand slam in his first at-bat of the season Friday, Pena drove in seven runs in the series. Evan Longoria went 2-for-3 today and 6-for-10 with a homer and three walks in the series.

The Yankees’ on the other hand, got very little from the middle of their order. Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira all went without an RBI in the series.

Hellickson, the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year, got roughed up this spring, finishing with a 9.00 ERA and 33 hits allowed in 20 innings. Many are expecting him to give up more hits this year, but he allowed just three — all of them doubles — in this one.

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.