Former All-Star, Astros manager Grady Hatton Jr. dies at 90

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Grady Hatton Jr., who played in the majors from 1946-60 and later managed the Houston Astros, passed away Thursday from cancer-related causes, his daughter-in-law told the Beaumont Enterprise.

He was 90 years old.

Hatton, primarily a third baseman, had his best seasons right away after arriving in the majors with the Reds as a 23-year-old in 1946, hitting .271/.369/.422 with 14 homers and 69 RBI in 436 at-bats as a rookie and .281/.377/.448 with 16 homers and 77 RBI as a sophomore in 1947.

Those turned out to be the highest marks of his career, though he remained a solid regular through 1950. Ironically, his one All-Star Game came in 1952, his worst year as a starter. He ended up hitting .212/.319/.312 in 433 at-bats that year.

Hatton was essentially done at age 33, but he came back four years later in 1960 and hit .342 in 38 at-bats for the Cubs. He finished his career with a .254/.354/.374 line, 91 homers and 533 RBI in 4,206 at-bats.

After his playing career, Hatton spent time as a coach and manager. He managed the Astros for three seasons in 1966-68, going 164-221. Despite his poor record, he remained with the club  afterwards, first as a scout and then back on the field as a first-base coach.

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.