John Lackey to make minor league rehab start Monday

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It was easy to think the worst when John Lackey left his start against the Blue Jays on April 6 with a right arm injury, but he’s already on track to return to game action.

Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports that Lackey is expected to make a minor league rehab start Monday with Double-A Portland. The veteran right-hander was placed on the disabled list earlier this month with a strained biceps muscle, but he resumed throwing earlier this week after symptoms subsided.

Franklin Morales is also expected to pitch for Portland on Monday as he rehabs from a back injury and could be an option for the rotation if Lackey suffers a setback. Alfredo Aceves has allowed five runs in 10 innings over two starts while filling in for Lackey. He’s slated to make his next start Monday against the Athletics.

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.