Marlins closing off upper deck for six games next week

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Barry Jackson, columnist at the Miami Herald, has the story:

The Marlins, whose attendance ranks last in the National League five weeks into the season, have decided to close the upper bowl at Marlins Park for at least some weeknight games – an approach the team used at times at Sun Life Stadium.

The upper bowl will be closed for six dates in the team’s nine-game homestand that begins next Tuesday. Fans can sit only in the lower bowl for games May 14-16 against Cincinnati and May 20-22 against Philadelphia. The upper bowl will remain open for May 17-19 games against Arizona.

The Marlins will make a decision before each homestand from here on out about whether the upper deck sections are going to be accessible.

Marlins representative P.J. Loyello told the Miami Herald that closing the upper bowl will “give an overall better fan experience.” But, as Jackson points out, it also means fewer shifts for some stadium employees.

The Marlins averaged 18,772 fans per game in their final year at Sun Life. They’re doing 18,865 per game in their second season at Marlins Park — a building that will wind up costing Miami taxpayers over $1 billion.

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.