Bryce Harper says his surgically-repaired knee “feels great”

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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper underwent surgery in October to debride and repair the bursa sac in his left knee, but he told Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com at NatsFest today that it “feels great” and he began sprinting about three weeks ago.

Harper was banged up following collisions with the outfield wall in April and May last year, but he admitted today that he was actually hurting even earlier. While he played through the pain for most of the season, he said his big takeaway from 2013 is that he’ll “probably never do that again.” The young phenom won’t say for sure if he’ll be 100 percent for the start of spring training, but there should still be plenty of time for him to get ready for the season even if the Nationals ease him into things.

Harper, 21, hit .274/.368/.486 with 20 home runs, 58 RBI, and 11 stolen bases in 118 games last season.

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.