Indians sign OF Venable to Minor League deal

Indians sign OF Venable to Minor League deal

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians general manager Mike Chernoff is more than familiar with outfielder Will Venable. When Chernoff was a middle infielder at Princeton University, Venable was one of his Tigers teammates.

Chernoff and Venable are a part of the same team again.

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On Friday morning, Venable signed a Minor League contract with the Indians that includes a non-roster invitation to attend Spring Training with the big league club. The outfielder was on site at Cleveland's Arizona training complex and underwent a physical to complete the deal, and he is expectated to be on hand Saturday to begin working out with the Tribe.

"I've known Will for 12 or 13 years, followed his career, stayed in touch with him," Chernoff said. "It was great to connect with him over the past several weeks and several days and talk about our opportunity here. He will come in and compete just like all of the other guys in camp."

Venable will be thrown into the mix for one of the Indians' vacant outfield jobs, along with players such as Collin Cowgill, Joey Butler, Tyler Naquin, Zach Walters, Shane Robinson, Michael Choice, Robbie Grossman and James Ramsey. As things currently stand, only Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall are in line for starting roles in the outfield for the Tribe.

Also on Friday, Abraham Almonte -- Cleveland's projected starting center fielder -- was suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Chernoff said the Venable signing was unrelated to the news about Almonte.

"We've been in conversations with Will for a few weeks at this point," Chernoff said, "with obviously no knowledge of this situation. Now that he's here, he adds to that depth, and [now] we're finding out this news may open up some more opportunities for Will and may factor in for him and other guys in camp."

The Indians anticipate that the makeup of their Opening Day outfield will be impacted by the ongoing comeback of left fielder Michael Brantley, who is rehabbing from November surgery on his right shoulder. While Brantley is making positive strides early in camp -- he has advanced to hitting off a tee -- it remains doubtful that he will be ready in time for the start of the regular season.

The 33-year-old Venable has a .251/.317/.406 slash line in parts of eight Major League seasons with the Padres and Rangers. Last year, the left-handed-hitting outfielder batted .244 with 16 steals, 22 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs and 40 runs scored in 135 games (390 plate appearances) between tours with San Diego and Texas, which acquired him via trade on Aug. 18.

Venable has experience in right (555 career games), center (322) and left field (91), and he has performed best against right-handed pitching. Even in a down year in 2015, Venable hit .256 (.710 OPS) against righties, compared to .159 (.377) against lefties. For his career, he has hit .256 (.745) versus right-handed pitching, compared to .222 (.610) versus southpaws.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.