Astros designate Carlos Pena and Ronny Cedeno for assignment

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The Astros have designated first baseman Carlos Pena and shortstop Ronny Cedeno for assignment, reports Brian McTaggart. Shortstop prospect Jonathan Villar is being promoted from Triple-A Oklahoma City to take Cedeno’s spot on the roster. CSN Houston reports that Villar will be the team’s starting shortstop tomorrow.

Villar was acquired along with Anthony Gose and J.A. Happ from the Phillies on July 29, 2010 in the Roy Oswalt trade. In 385 trips to the plate at Triple-A, Villar posted a .786 OPS, including a marked increase in power in what has been the best season of his professional career.

Pena, known for his power, had just eight home runs in 325 plate appearances with the Astros. His .350 slugging percentage is a career low and his .324 on-base percentage is his lowest since 2002, though this isn’t all that surprising considering he is 35 years old. Cedeno had a rebirth of sorts with the Mets last year, posting a .741 OPS in 186 PA. His career average is .641, but the 30-year-old could only get to .558 this year.

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.