Masahiro Tanaka pitches a simulated game, on track to pitch in September

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Masahiro Tanaka pitched a simulated game this morning. He tossed 49 pitches and, according to those who watched it, he utilized his entire repertoire of pitches, splitter included. His command was a bit rusty, but afterwards, the Yankees manager waxed optimistic:

At the moment the Yankees are six games behind the Orioles in the AL East but only two and a half back of the Mariners, who sit in the second wild card slot. Between them: the Tigers. So, yes, having Tanaka back would be a pretty big deal.

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.