Manny Machado cleared to begin playing in rehab games

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Manny Machado will soon be one phone call away from rejoining the Orioles’ active major league roster.

According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, the young third baseman has been cleared to embark on a minor league rehab assignment this Friday with the High-A Frederick Keys. Machado has been doing outfield drills since the second week of April and made it through an on-field batting practice session with no issues on Tuesday afternoon.

The exciting 21-year-old is on his way back from October surgery to repair a torn medial patellofemoral ligament in his left knee. He batted .283/.314/.432 with 14 home runs, 51 doubles, 71 RBI, and 88 runs scored in 156 games last season for the ORioles before suffering the major knee injury in a late-September game at Tropicana Field.

Machado is on track to meet up with the O’s the first week of May.

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.