Rays send Elliot Johnson to Royals as PTBNL in James Shields trade

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Tampa Bay owed Kansas City a player to be named later from the big James Shields trade back in December and today that player was named: Elliot Johnson.

Johnson spent the past two seasons as the Rays’ utility man, but was designated for assignment last week along with Reid Brignac as Tampa Bay cleared 40-man roster space.

Johnson isn’t much of a hitter, batting .223 with a .621 OPS in 200 career games through age 28, but he’s a very good defensive infielder with plus speed and seemingly has a good shot to claim a spot on the Royals’ bench.

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.