Rangers give Matt Harrison five-year, $55 million contract

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32 wins over the last two years was enough to convince the Rangers to bet heavily on Matt Harrison. They gave the 27-year-old left-hander a five-year, $55 million extension with a vesting option for 2018, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jeff Wilson.

Harrison, part of the Mark Teixeira deal with the Braves that also netted the Rangers Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, opened his career 16-10 with a 5.39 ERA in 32 starts and 31 relief appearances before breaking through in 2011. He’s 32-20 with a 3.34 ERA the last two years.

Of some concern going forward are Harrison’s middling strikeout rates. He got up to 6.1 K/9 IP in 2011, but he fell off to 5.6 last season and his 4.03 FIP wasn’t nearly in line with his 3.29 ERA. Still, considering that he’s a Texas pitcher, 200-inning seasons with 4.00 ERAs would still make him quite valuable to the cause.

Harrison made $2.95 million last season in his first year of arbitration. The new deal buys out the  last two of those and his first three years of free agency.

Harrison will likely start the Rangers’ first or second game this season, whichever one Yu Darvish doesn’t. Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando are also set to be part of a rotation that still has one opening while Colby Lewis and Feliz continue their rehab from elbow surgeries.

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.