Carlos Quentin cleared for live batting practice

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Carlos Quentin is far enough along in his recovery from March 19 knee surgery that he’s been cleared for live batting practice.

Quentin was initially given a 4-6 week return timetable and won’t be ready to return by the time he’s eligible to come off the disabled list on April 18, but manager Bud Black told Corey Brock of MLB.com that a minor-league rehab assignment isn’t far off if setbacks can be avoided.

Quentin was acquired from the White Sox for a pair of prospects in December and moving from power-inflating U.S. Cellular Field to pitcher’s haven Petco Park figures to drag down his raw numbers, but the Padres can definitely use his right-handed thump in the lineup. He averaged 33 homers per 150 games for the White Sox and they’ve been platooning Chris Denorfia and Will Venable in right field while playing Jesus Guzman everyday in left field in Quentin’s absence.

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.