Astros activating shortstop Jed Lowrie from disabled list

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Jed Lowrie is once again between disabled list stints, as the oft-injured infielder is back after sitting out the Astros’ first five games with a sprained thumb suffered late in spring training.

Lowrie went 3-for-6 on a brief minor-league rehab assignment and the switch-hitter acquired from Boston for Mark Melancon will take over as Houston’s starting shortstop after Rule 5 pick Marwin Gonzalez filled in for him.

Brian Bixler was optioned to Triple-A to make room on the roster for Lowrie, who will now try to stay healthy enough to play 100 games in a season for the first time.

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.