Jon Niese throws, feels “very close to 100 percent”

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Jon Niese saw his first game action since undergoing an MRI exam on his sore shoulder last week, throwing two innings in a Mets intrasquad game today.

And he seemed very happy with how things went, telling Adam Rubin of ESPN New York:

I felt great. It’s a great feeling to go out there and not feel any pain in your shoulder. It was a great step forward to go out on the mound and feel very close to 100 percent.

That’s a big relief, especially considering Niese also had shoulder problems last season. Niese is still hoping to be ready for Opening Day, although he has quite a few hurdles to clear before then after throwing just 35 pitches in what the Mets called “a controlled game” today.

Jonny Venters is back in the majors

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The Rays announced on Wednesday that the club purchased the contract of lefty reliever Jonny Venters from Triple-A Durham. The 33-year-old hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to a continuous battle with arm injuries. The Rays note that he has undergone two and a half Tommy John surgeries, which is a number that seems to be in dispute.

Venters signed a minor league contract with the Rays in December. With Durham so far this season, he gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Before the injuries, Venters was among the best relievers in 2010-11. In those two seasons, he posted a combined 1.89 ERA with 189 strikeouts and 82 walks in 171 innings.