The Rays have agreed to a two-year, minor league deal with lefty Jonny Venters, according to Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune (via Twitter). Venters had spent all of his professional career with the Braves.
Once one of the game’s most-feared southpaw relievers, Venters has seen his career derailed by elbow troubles in recent years. He underwent his third Tommy John procedure in September, and will now look to accomplish the rare feat of returning to being a productive big leaguer after a trio of UCL replacements.
Soon to turn 30, Venters has not pitched in the big leagues since 2012. After a pair of sub-2.00 ERA, 80+ inning campaigns to start his career, Venters took a slight step back that year (3.22 ERA in 58 2/3 frames) while battling through elbow pain that sent him to the DL. He still seemed poised to continue the excellent start to his career, which included better than ten strikeouts per nine innings and nearly a 70% groundball rate, but went under the knife in March of 2013 and has not yet made it all the way back.
With a two-year minor league pact, Tampa will presumably look to provide Venters with rehab resources and bring him back slowly. It would be an achievement at this point for him to even get back to throwing at full effort, let alone to contribute to a big league pen, but there is at least some precedent in the form of pitchers like Jason Isringhausen.