Two men obsessed with Mike Piazza-as-a-Marlin collectibles

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Mike Piazza played five games and amassed 19 plate appearances as a Florida Marlin. But such are the things from which obsessions are borne. From Ken Belson of the New York Times:

One is a corporate lawyer from Southern California with few hobbies and only the mildest interest in sports. The other is a college student from Miami who is less than half his age and has amassed a stash of memorabilia that matches his love of baseball. Yet from opposite ends of the country they share one peculiar passion: collecting trading cards of Mike Piazza in a Florida Marlins uniform.

That’s like collecting only Delaney & Bonnie-era Eric Clapton stuff. Or focusing intently on John Tyler’s vice presidency. Neat, I suppose, but says more about the enthusiast than the object of the enthusiasm.

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.