Jason Heyward cleared to play catch and hit off a tee

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Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an update on the status of Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, who suffered multiple fractures in his jaw when he was beaned by a fastball on August 21:

Jason Heyward isn’t chewing solid food yet, but he did get a pleasant surprise during a visit to the oral surgeon Tuesday. He was cleared to begin playing some catch and swinging at balls off a tee.

“I was excited to get the process started,” Heyward told reporters Tuesday after receiving that clearance. “It happened sooner that I would have expected.”

The 24-year-old has already been ruled out for the remainder of the 2013 regular season, but he could return for the playoffs. Heyward was batting .253/.347/.423 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI in 95 games played.

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.