Tanner Scheppers’ first big league start will be Opening Day

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Here’s something you don’t see very often: Because of injuries knocking Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland out of the mix the Rangers have turned to Tanner Scheppers as their Opening Day starter and it will also be the 27-year-old right-hander’s first career start in the majors.

Scheppers was an occasional starter in the minors, but has worked exclusively as a reliever for the Rangers and was fantastic out of the bullpen last season with a 1.88 ERA and 59/24 K/BB ratio in 77 innings. Texas decided to shift Schepper’s role around following all the injuries to the rotation and Darvish’s recent neck problems caused them to scramble even further for Opening Day.

Last time Scheppers started a regular season game was 2011 at Triple-A and he has a grand total of 12 professional starts since being drafted 44th overall in 2009. Meanwhile, the Rangers have also decided that Alexi Ogando–who started 29 games in 2011 and 18 games last season–will begin this year in the bullpen.

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.