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Rays sign Jonny Venters to two-year minor-league deal

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Once an elite set-up man, Venters has not pitched in the majors since 2012.

US PRESSWIRE

The Tampa Bay Rays have added injury-plagued reliever Jonny Venters, signing the southpaw to a two-year minor-league deal, according to Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. The nearly 30-year-old Venters is currently recovering from his third Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the entirety of the 2015 season, hence the two year commitment.

At one time, Venters was among the elite relievers in baseball, setting up for Craig Kimbrel with the Atlanta Braves from 2010 to 2012. During that three-year stretch, Venters, an All-Star in 2011, posted a 2.23 ERA, 175 ERA+, 3.00 FIP, 10.1 K/9, and 4.7 WAR. He was especially dominant in 2011, putting up a 208 ERA+ and 3.0 WAR in a league-leading 85 appearances.

Since the end of the 2012 season, Venters has not thrown a single inning in professional baseball. He underwent Tommy John surgery in May of 2013, and another last September. It may not be too much of a stretch to blame Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez for Venters' arm troubles, as he was essentially ran into the ground, recording back-to-back seasons of 80+ innings in 2010 and 2011.

Venters is now one of just a few arms to undergo Tommy John three times, as he first went under the knife as a 20-year-old minor leaguer in 2005. He seems to have a long road ahead of him to make it back to the major leagues, and there isn't much precedent for a player in his situation. Former All-Star reliever Jason Isringhausen is just one rare example of a pitcher making it back to the majors after a trio of surgeries.

The Rays will plan on using 2015 as a way to keep close tabs on Venters' rehab, with the hope being for him to become a key component of Tampa Bay's bullpen in 2016. There is quite a bit of risk in betting on Venters, but the price is cheap, and the reward potentially very high.