The mayor of Tampa says a downtown stadium for the Rays is “within reach”

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Interesting thing I did not know until now: St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster lost his reelection bid on Tuesday. This could be significant inasmuch as Foster was the primary force behind St. Pete’s unwavering insistence that the Rays stick to their Tropicana Field lease and not pursue other stadium options elsewhere. Maybe his successor and the city council don’t change the stance — money is money and leases are leases after all — but it could signal change.

Against that backdrop, Tampa’s Mayor talked big about a Rays stadium in downtown Tampa yesterday:

 Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Thursday told a gathering of hospitality officials that a downtown ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays is within reach, despite challenges that persist. “It’s either going to be Tampa or someplace else, not St. Petersburg,” Buckhorn told 100 members attending the Hillsborough County Hotel and Motel Association’s annual luncheon.

His statements imply that Tampa would be willing to help finance a parch as well. He mentioned a couple of sites and said that a financing plan that did not include a “taxpayer giveaway” would need to be put in place. That’s a clever bit of nuance there. If it were to be all private he’d say a plan that did not include “taxpayer funds.” He seems to be OK with public money being used as long as someone — someone pro-ballpark — can characterize it as smart or responsible as opposed to a “giveaway.” And there is always someone who is willing to do that even if it’s disingenuous in the extreme to do so.

But that’s Tampa’s problem. With Foster leaving office and Tampa’s mayor talking like this, one suspects that we’re in for a new act in the Rays ballpark drama.

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.