Don’t expect many strikeouts in Twins-Phillies game tonight

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There are lots of big-name starters pitching tonight–Felix Hernandez, Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, CC Sabathia–but to me the most interesting matchup of the day involves a pair of back-of-the-rotation starters in the Minnesota-Philadelphia game.

Nick Blackburn of the Twins and Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies have two of the four lowest career strikeout rates among all active pitchers with at least 100 starts. Here’s the bottom five:

                   SO/9
Aaron Cook         3.82
Chien-Ming Wang    4.11
KYLE KENDRICK      4.27
NICK BLACKBURN     4.34
John Lannan        4.71

Aaron Cook and John Lannan are currently both in the minors, so among active pitchers actually in the majors only Chien-Ming Wang has produced fewer strikeouts per nine innings than Kendrick and Blackburn. And coincidentally Wang also pitches tonight, against the Blue Jays.

For their careers Blackburn and Kendrick have averaged 4.27 and 4.34 strikeouts per nine innings. To put that in some context even if you add their strikeout rates together that’s 8.61 per nine innings, which is lower than the individual strikeout rates of 13 active pitchers with 100-plus starts, including one guy (Max Scherzer) also pitching tonight.

For anyone allergic to bat-missing Kendrick vs. Blackburn is must-see television, although having said all this I’m sure the Phillies and Twins will combine for like 50 strikeouts tonight.

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.