Pirates closer Jason Grilli deems himself “ready” to return

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Pirates closer Jason Grilli has been on the disabled list since April 21 with a strained oblique, but the right-hander deemed himself “ready” to return after throwing 24 pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Travis Sawchik reports.

Grilli, of course, won’t just be activated like that; he’ll have to make a handful of rehab appearances, but if he doesn’t suffer any setbacks, he could rejoin his teammates before the month of May expires.

Grilli blew two consecutive saves against the Brewers — both due to Ryan Braun homering — before the Pirates shut him down. In his absence, Mark Melancon has been handling closing duties and has done a great job, notching four of five saves with a 1.13 ERA and a 5/0 K/BB ratio in eight innings in his new role.

It’s unclear if the Pirates plan to reinsert Grilli into his previous role or wean him back into closing.

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.