Bryce Harper needs thumb surgery, could miss more than two months

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Bryce Harper’s head-first slide into third base Friday will likely cost him at least two months, as Keith Law of ESPN.com reports that the Nationals outfielder needs surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb and is unlikely to play again before July.

Harper, who was benched by manager Matt Williams last week for a lack of hustle, was off to a modest start by hitting .289 with one homer and a .722 OPS through 22 games.

Washington brought in Nate McLouth this offseason specifically to address outfield depth, paying a premium to sign him for a part-time role. And now he’ll be in a full-time role as Harper’s replacement after logging a total of just 43 plate appearances so far. McLouth hit .258 with 12 homers and a .729 OPS in 146 games for the Orioles last season, so while he’s a solid all-around player he can’t come close to replacing Harper’s upside and overall impact.

UPDATE: Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com confirms the 6-8 week recovery timetable, so missing the remainder of the first half seems like a real possibility.

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.