Brandon Beachy makes first rehab start since Tommy John surgery

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The Braves currently sit at 28-18 on the season and hold a four-game lead over the Nationals in the National League East, but they could get even stronger soon.

Brandon Beachy began a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett last night and allowed two runs over four innings. The 26-year-old right-hander has already thrown in simulated games and extended spring training, but this was his first official start since he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last June.

As so often happens after Tommy John surgery, Beachy’s control was a bit shaky, as he walked three and threw just 35 out of 70 pitches for strikes. Still, reports on his velocity have been pretty positive thus far, so the strength is there.

Pitchers are permitted to spend a maximum of 30 days on a rehab assignment and Beachy figures to need most of it. However, he should be back in the majors by the end of June if all goes well. The Braves could have a tough decision to make about their rotation when that time comes, but that’s a nice problem to have.

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.