Zack Greinke throws two innings versus Diamondbacks in return to Cactus League action

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Dodgers starter Zack Greinke was on a Cactus League mound Wednesday in Glendale, Arizona for the first time since straining his left calf in late February and the return went smoothly enough.

Greinke allowed three earned runs on six hits in just two innings against a Diamondbacks split-squad, but his calf survived the outing and he can now begin to work on building his pitch count up to where it needs to be for the opening of the 2014 regular season.

Greinke has already been ruled out of the Dodgers’ two-game series against the Diamondbacks in Australia (March 22-23), but he should be able to start their first game back in the United States on March 30 in San Diego.

“Everybody had to get ready faster for Australia,” Greinke told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick on Wednesday. “I have to get ready for the American games. I’ve just got to get ready as fast as I can without a setback.”

The 30-year-old right-hander posted an excellent 2.63 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 177 2/3 innings 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.