Orioles continue to negotiate with No. 4 overall pick Kevin Gausman

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UPDATE: The Times-Picayune has backtracked from their original story. It now says that Gausman is “seriously considering” a return to LSU. Meanwhile, Aaron Fitt of Baseball America passes along this statement from LSU coach Paul Mainieri:

“Kevin is still in negotiations…any reports portraying his return to LSU as definite are premature.”

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun was told by Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich that the two sides are still talking and are “making progress.”

10:01 PM: We heard earlier today that No. 8 overall pick Mark Appel is leaning toward returning to Stanford for his senior season, but apparently the Pirates aren’t the only team having a tough time reaching an agreement with their first-round selection.

Albert Buford of the New Orleans Times-Picayune was told by a source that No. 4 overall pick right-hander Kevin Gausman will return to LSU for another season rather than sign with the Orioles.

Pretty surprising news, if true. Gausman’s quote in the report is far less definitive, though.

“This is turning out to be a tough decision, but as of now my heart is still with LSU,” Gausman said. “There are still things for me to accomplish as a Tiger.  I still want to play in and win the College World Series, and with a lot of guys coming back next year I believe we can do it.”

“I also believe I’ll only continue to improve and become a more complete pitcher working with (LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn) Gausman said. “I have no problem at all going back to LSU. We’ll see what happens.”

Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton and Mike Zunino have already signed with their respective teams, so Gausman is the highest remaining unsigned pick from this year’s draft. Ironically, the Orioles passed over the chance to take Appel by selecting Gausman.

The slot recommendation for the No. 4 overall pick is $4.2 million, so Gausman would be passing up a large chunk of change to return for his junior season. As such, this is likely a matter of Gausman’s reps putting the pressure on with Friday’s 5:00 p.m. ET deadline looming. Of course, because the new CBA limits draft spending, the Orioles can only offer so much without losing next year’s first-round pick.

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.