Justin Morneau is feeling great for the first time in years

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This is highly encouraging. After three years of post-concussion syndrome, back trouble and other ailments, Justin Morneau tells Phil Mackey of ESPN radio that he’s feeling great, working out hard this offseason and is ready for an old-school Justin Morneau season:

“I’m feeling good, feeling strong, building strength instead of just doing rehab like I’ve done the last two winters — not recovering from surgery, but actually building toward the goal of getting strong and being ready for spring training and being ready early for that World Baseball Classic.”

Morneau played almost a full season last year — his only time lost was due to a wrist problem unrelated to past woes — but he wasn’t really his old self. And maybe we never see that old Justin Morneau again.  But the fact that he’s able to work out hard without all of the caveats and equivocations of the past — he’s not saying things like “I hope to be ready” as we’ve heard before — is excellent news.

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.