Nationals re-sign left-hander Zach Duke

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After spending most of this year in the minors Zach Duke pitched well for the Nationals as a September call-up and Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports they’ve re-signed the left-hander to a major-league deal.

Prior to joining the Nationals’ bullpen down the stretch Duke had been starting at Triple-A and 168 of his 189 career appearances have come as a starter, but the 30-year-old former top prospect seems most likely to spend 2013 as a middle reliever.

Washington non-tendered Tom Gorzelanny and may lose Sean Burnett to free agency, so the Nationals are thin on southpaw bullpen depth.

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.