Yankees release Russell Branyan

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According to Donnie Collins of the Scranton Times-Tribune, the Yankees have released Russell Branyan.

Don’t feel bad if you forgot Branyan was with the Yankees. I know I did. The veteran slugger hooked on with the Bombers on a minor league deal over the winter, but was limited to just 33 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season due to, you guessed it, back problems. The 36-year-old was productive when in the lineup, hitting .309/.348/.645 with 11 home runs, 39 RBI and a 1.093 OPS in 33 games, but didn’t play another game after July 6.

The free-swinging Branyan owns a lowly .236 batting average over 14 major league seasons, but he has also amassed 194 home runs and an .814 OPS. However, given his age and constant back issues, we have probably seen the last of him in the big leagues.

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.