Masahiro Tanaka cleared to resume throwing program

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After a brief setback in his attempt to avoid Tommy John elbow surgery and rejoin the Yankees’ active roster Masahiro Tanaka has been cleared to resume a throwing program.

Tanaka headed back to New York to be examined by Yankees doctors after experiencing what the team called “general soreness” last week, but Andrew Marchand of ESPN.com reports that he had no problems while playing catch this morning.

Tanaka’s odds of making a full recovery from a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament remain slim and his attempt to do so may end up simply delaying the start of a 12-month recovery timetable, but the Yankees have not ruled out his pitching again this season.

Before being shut down in mid-July the 25-year-old rookie from Japan went 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts, including a 135/19 K/BB ratio in 129 innings.

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.