Next week: The Winter Meetings

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The next time you hear from me I’ll be blogging from Nashville, where the 2012 Winter Meetings will be held in the labyrinthine Gaylord Opryland Resort. I’ve been to that place before. It’s crazy big and confusing what with all of the fern-filled atria and gawking tourists. And, at this time of year, it’s festooned with more Chirstmas lights than that old lady’s down the block times a gajillion.

I may need to take some sort of medication in order to properly orient myself to the surroundings. But that’s my problem.

For your purposes, know that HardballTalk is going to do what it has done four Winter Meetings’ running: blog the living hell out of the thing, passing along every trade, signing, news nugget rumor, and stray observation that comes our way. I got a new phone this year too, so maybe my pictures won’t suck so bad too.  Just a whole lot to look forward to, really.

When Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke signs, we’ll be on it. When Scott Boras says something so mind-blowingly ridiculous that it makes your eyes cross — my guess this year is some Michael Bourn/Willie Mays comp — we’ll let you know. We’ll be all around in the dark. We’ll be ever’-where – wherever you can look. Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, we’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, we’ll be there, etc.

We hope you do this all the time, but starting, say, midday on Sunday, keep a window open with HBT, and refresh liberally. If you do, you won’t miss a thing.

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.