A’s planning for Manny Ramirez’s return in three weeks

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Manny Ramirez has kept a remarkably low profile while serving the first half of his 50-game suspension, but he’s now about three weeks away from being eligible to return and about two weeks from likely beginning a minor-league rehab assignment.

Ramirez is currently working out at extended spring training and his suspension ends on May 30, with Jim Hawkins of MLB.com reporting that the A’s will soon send him on a 10-game rehab stint to prepare.

Manager Bob Melvin told Hawkins that once Ramirez is eligible to play “DH has been his role and that’s what we envision him doing.”

Six different players have started at designated hitter for the A’s through 29 games, led by Seth Smith with 14 starts, and the position has combined for a .228 batting average with three homers and a .709 OPS.

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.