Josh Beckett throws off mound for first time since cortisone injection in hip

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Dodgers right-hander Josh Beckett was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to the All-Star break due to what was termed as a right hip impingement. According to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, he returned to the mound today and was pleasantly surprised by his progress.

The Dodgers have yet to make an official announcement on the next step, but Beckett is aiming to return Tuesday against the Pirates. The 34-year-old owns a 2.26 ERA and 95/32 K/BB ratio over 103 2/3 innings this season, easily his best numbers since he finished ninth in the AL Cy Young balloting in 2009. The hip issue sounds like something he’ll attempt to manage and pitch through, but the Dodgers would do well to add some insurance for their rotation before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, especially considering the struggles of Dan Haren.

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.