Wandy Rodriguez returns to the mound

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The Pirates have the best record in baseball.

And their rotation could soon get a big boost.

According to beat writer Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez threw off a mound Wednesday for the first time in a month and reported no issues with his forearm or elbow. He’s scheduled to throw another bullpen session this Saturday and then it might be time to progress to a live batting practice session.

Rodriguez, who has been out since June 5 with left elbow and forearm tightness, could be ready to rejoin the Pittsburgh starting rotation at some point in late August or early September if he avoids further setbacks. He began a rehab assignment on June 24 but had to halt it after experiencing renewed mid-arm discomfort.

Wandy had a superb 3.59 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 46/12 K/BB ratio in 62 2/3 innings before landing on the disabled list. The Pirates (68-44) enter play Wednesday night against the visiting Marlins with a two-game lead over the 66-46 Cardinals in the National League Central standings.

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.