Tim Lincecum has a 3.06 ERA since the All-Star break

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Tim Lincecum isn’t quite back to being his old, Cy Young-winning self in terms of raw stuff or performance, but he’s bounced back from a terrible first half to quietly pitch very well for the past two months.

At the All-Star break Lincecum was 3-10 with a 6.42 ERA in 18 starts.

Since the All-Star break Lincecum is 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 13 starts.

He’s pitched better, no doubt, but it’s also worth noting that his secondary numbers in the first half weren’t nearly as bad as his ERA. For instance Lincecum struck out 104 batters in 98 innings before the break, which suggests he was anything but totally washed up and is actually a higher strikeout rate than he has in the second half.

Much of the difference in his performance came from the fact that Lincecum’s batting average on balls in play was .338 in the first half–which is very high–and is now .304 in the second half. In other words, when some of the bloopers stopped falling for hits and some of the line drives started finding gloves Lincecum magically ceased giving up runs in bunches.

You may want to attribute that to a change in luck or a change in approach or a change in the quality of his pitching, but whatever the case it’s nice to see Lincecum thriving again. And after 6.1 shutout innings against the Rockies last night his overall ERA is under 5.00 for the first time all season.

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.