Bryce Harper has stitches removed from surgically repaired thumb

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Bryce Harper still has a ways to go before he rejoins the Nationals, but he’s moving in the right direction. Per Dan Kolko of MASN Sports, the 21-year-old outfielder had the stitches removed from his surgically-repaired left thumb today.

Harper, who had surgery on April 29 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb, has not been cleared to begin real rehab work. The timeline still calls for him to be sidelined until around early July, so the Nationals might have to make due without him for another two months. Nate McLouth has been asked to be the primary fill-in, but he entered tonight’s action batting just .078/.254/.157 over his first 64 plate appearances this season. Ouch.

Harper was batting .289/.352/.422 with one home run and nine RBI in 22 games prior to the injury.

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.