Mike Piazza denies steroid use in excerpts from new book

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We already knew that Mike Piazza was going to deny steroid use in his new book, “Long Shot,” which is set to be released next week, but now we have some actual excerpts to chew on. Here’s a preview, courtesy of David Waldstein of the New York Times.

“It shouldn’t be assumed that every big hitter of the generation used steroids,” Piazza says in the book. “I didn’t.”

He admits to using androstenedione as part of a supplement pack until the outcry over Mark McGwire’s use of it forced him to “phase it out.” Baseball later banned the substance.

He also writes that he briefly experimented with amphetamines until they were banned in 2006. And he describes hearing about human growth hormone, doing some research and asking the Mets’ former trainer, Fred Hina, if teams would start distributing it, unaware that it was a banned substance. According to the book, Hina said he would look into it and a day or two later told Piazza it was not a good idea.

While some speculated that the release of the book was delayed until after the Hall of Fame vote because of possible revelations regarding his use of performance-enhancing drugs, Piazza said it was pushed back because he didn’t want it to look like he was campaigning. So much for the conspiracy theorists.

Piazza received 57.8 percent of the vote last month in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, less than the 75 percent required for enshrinement in Cooperstown. In his first public comments since the vote, Piazza expressed disappointment in missing the cut.

“I won’t deny there is some disappointment, but I understand it’s a process,” he said in the interview, which marked his first public comments since the Hall of Fame vote was announced Jan. 9. “All things considered, I got over 50 percent, and a lot of people were very supportive. I mean, there’s what, almost 600 voters? That’s a lot. I’m on my homeowners board. I know how hard it is to get six people on the same page, let alone 600.”

Piazza, a 12-time All-Star, produced a .308/.377/.545 lifetime batting line and a .922 career OPS over 16 seasons between the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres and Athletics. He holds the all-time record for home runs hit by a catcher.

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.