The art of scuffing

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Dirk Hayhurst used to be a professional pitcher. A professional pitcher with arm trouble. As a result, he had to go all Eddie Harris from time to time. Today, at Sports on Earth, he reveals what he knows about the fine art of the scuff:

Doug Brocail¬†could get a fresh ball back from the umpire and, within three windmill-like movements of his throwing arm, have a ball so scuffed you’d think he just took sandpaper to it, though he used nothing more than his thumbnail. My pitching coach in A ball, Dave Rajsich, told me of a teammate who once cut the red Rawlings “R” out of his glove only to replace it with a red (painted) sandpaper facsimile, with a painted white “R” in the center. He’d pass the ball over the letter like he was casually adjusting his mitt.

Great stuff. And an excuse to think about Joe Niekro and his emery board. The best part of which was his smooth-as-crap attempt to get rid of it as the umps searched him. I could watch it all day.

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.