Johnny Cueto could be ready to return to game action

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Johnny Cueto has been out since June 28 due to a recurrence of a lat strain, but he’s nearly ready to help the Reds as they attempt to maintain their lead for a Wild Card spot.

According to C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cueto threw another bullpen session this morning. The Reds will see how he feels Sunday before deciding the next step, but pitching coach Bryan Price indicated that he could be ready to pitch in a game.

“You have to get through all this stuff, everything’s been a process of execution and then follow-up, and the follow-up is seeing how he feels when he gets done, the following day,” Price said Saturday morning. “I think he’s real close. Pretty close is about as far as we can go with him before activation. ”

The Reds have yet to announce starters for Monday and Tuesday against the Astros, so Cueto would presumably slot in there if he feels good.

Cueto has been limited to just nine starts this season due to his nagging lat injury. He has served three different stints on the disabled list.

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.