Rafael Furcal is scorching hot for the Cardinals

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St. Louis got swept by at home by the Braves over the weekend, but it certainly wasn’t the shortstop’s fault. Rafael Furcal went 7-for-11 with two walks against his original team and is a ridiculous 15-for-21 over his last five games.

The stretch has him batting .383/.447/.519 for the season. Baseball-reference’s WAR rates him the game’s second most valuable offensive player so far behind Josh Hamilton and ahead of Matt Kemp.

All of this comes from a guy who looked pretty much done last October. He followed up a weak .231/.298/.348 regular season by hitting .195/.244/.325 in 18 games during the postseason. He also struggled so much this spring that the Cardinals started hitting him at the bottom of the order in the second half of March to see if anyone else could step up and claim the leadoff spot.

No one did, of course, and now Furcal has been a terror through one-fifth of the regular season.  He’s walked more than he’s struck out (15-14), and he’s seven for eight stealing bases, putting him on pace for his best season in that department since 2006.  With another big game tonight, he’d become the first player this season to have multiple hits in six straight contests.

Jonny Venters is back in the majors

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The Rays announced on Wednesday that the club purchased the contract of lefty reliever Jonny Venters from Triple-A Durham. The 33-year-old hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to a continuous battle with arm injuries. The Rays note that he has undergone two and a half Tommy John surgeries, which is a number that seems to be in dispute.

Venters signed a minor league contract with the Rays in December. With Durham so far this season, he gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Before the injuries, Venters was among the best relievers in 2010-11. In those two seasons, he posted a combined 1.89 ERA with 189 strikeouts and 82 walks in 171 innings.