Lance Berkman is “leaning toward retirement”

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Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports that the Pirates recently got in touch with Lance Berkman to express some interest, but his “agent says he’s leaning toward retirement” at age 37.

Texas declined its $12 million option on Berkman for 2014 after he missed half the season with injuries and didn’t hit much, but Pittsburgh may have been looking at him as a stop-gap first baseman.

Berkman can still draw walks and get on base, but he’s played just 105 of a possible 324 games during the past two seasons while posting a mediocre .730 OPS.

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.