Roberto Hernandez is first free agent pitcher to start for Rays since 2005

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When Roberto Hernandez takes the mound for the Rays this afternoon against the Orioles he’ll snap an incredible steak by becoming the first free agent pitcher to start for Tampa Bay since 2005.

According to the Rays’ official Twitter feed that’s a stretch of 1,207 consecutive games in which they did not use a starting pitcher who was acquired via major-league free agent contract. There were some minor-league signings used during that span, but the last pitcher signed to a big-league deal who started for the Rays was Hideo Nomo on July 25, 2005.

Hernandez signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Rays in December after barely pitching last season due to false identity charges (he used to be known as Fausto Carmona) and then an ankle injury.

By the way, check out the boxscore from that July 25, 2005 game. It’s fun.

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.