Kevin Youkilis returns to Yankees’ lineup after missing six games with back injury

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Kevin Youkilis is back in the Yankees’ lineup this afternoon for the first time in a week, reports Dan Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal.

Youkilis missed his sixth straight game yesterday due to lower back tightness, which led to a potential stint on the disabled list, but he was cleared to return after he made it through batting practice this afternoon without incident. He’s starting at first base this afternoon against the Blue Jays while Jayson Nix is playing third.

Youkilis is hitting .259 (17-for-61) with two homers, seven RBI and a .796 OPS through 16 games this season. Due to a wide variety of injuries, the 34-year-old has averaged just 120 games played over the past four seasons.

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.