Jim Leyland’s high hopes for Don Kelly

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.173-hitting Don Kelly is playing fist base and batting sixth for the Tigers on Tuesday night, and manager Jim Leyland is way optimistic:

“I’m hoping for Donnie Kelly to maybe get one hit and one RBI,” Leyland said. “If he does that, I’ll be thrilled.”

Of course, it would be bucking the odds a bit. Kelly has started 159 games as a big leaguer and had a hit and an RBI in 39 of them, which works out to 24.5 percent of the time.

Tonight’s start will be Kelly’s first since he rejoined the Tigers over the weekend. After three years of continuous service, he was finally dropped from Detroit’s roster last month after hitting .173/.265/.240 with one homer and seven RBI in 104 at-bats this year. He’s a lifetime .230/.282/.345 hitter.

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.