Carlos Zambrano yields seven runs, leaves with stiff back

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Marlins righty Carlos Zambrano entered Saturday’s start against the Rays with a superb 2.81 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. By the time his 2 1/3 innings were done, his ERA was 3.55 and his WHIP was 1.18.

Big Z surrendered seven earned runs on five hits and three walks to Tampa Bay before exiting in the third inning with stiffness in his lower back.

Beat writer Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says Zambrano was wearing an ice pack in the clubhouse at Marlins Park before he took the mound, so perhaps the Fish should have seen this one coming. And it’s safe to wonder whether they’ll now be forced to place the 31-year-old starter on the 15-day disabled list.

Zambrano missed a little over two weeks last season with the Cubs because of back discomfort.

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.