Rangers sign Australian catcher prospect.

Guy Edmonds was born on March 16, 1993, two years before lefthander Mike Venafro was drafted by the Rangers out of James Madison University.  News came down yesterday that each had signed minor league contracts.

Venafro, who last pitched professionally in 2007 (splitting the season between St. Louis’s, Toronto’s, and Minnesota’s AAA clubs), has signed a non-roster deal with the Nationals, in whose camp he might get a chance to pitch to Ivan Rodriguez, his teammate during his entire 1999-2001 tenure in the Rangers bullpen.  It appears that Venafro’s deal does not include an invite to big league camp, but at age 36 he’s sure to get a look with the big club at some point in March if he shows anything at all on the back fields.

As for Edmonds, the 16-year-old catcher joins pitchers Tim Stanford (2008) and Aaron Thompson (2009) as players signed by Texas out of Australia since Director of Pacific Rim Operations Jim Colborn joined the Rangers organization.  A right-handed hitter, Edmonds starred in the 2009 IBAF World Youth Baseball Championship held in August in Taiwan, putting up a slash line of .464/.484/.893 and driving in 15 runs (third most in the 12-team tournament) as he started all seven games for Team Australia.  He struck out just two times in 28 at-bats and was named the catcher on the Tournament All-Star Team.

Last month at the National Youth Championships in Australia, Edmonds (whose signing bonus is reportedly in the $150,000 range) hit .378/.453/.733 in 45 at-bats for New South Wales, champions of the Under-18 bracket.

Edmonds is currently catching Stanford on the Canterbury Bankstown Vikings baseball club, which sits in third place in the 1st Grade Division of the Sydney Major League, 4.5 games behind the hated Blacktown Workers.  In 104 at-bats, Edmonds is hitting .317/.357/.471.  The Vikings’ regular season concludes on March 7, after which Edmonds (whose father and uncle were professional rugby players) is expected to travel to Surprise to join Rangers minor league camp.

Other news:

As expected, righthanders Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando received their work visas without a problem, and both are expected to be in Surprise next week.

Texas signed 26-year-old righthander Jae-Kuk Ryu, a onetime Cubs prospect who last pitched in the Tampa Bay system in 2008.  He was claimed off waivers by San Diego last January and then by Cleveland in March, but the latter claim was voided by MLB (because Ryu was injured) on April 1, after which the Padres released him.  Ryu’s Rangers deal does not include an invite to big league camp.

Ryu, whose lifetime minor league record is 39-29, 3.35 (7.9 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings) and who has a 7.49 ERA in 39.2 big league innings, is perhaps best known for throwing a baseball at an osprey in its perch in his home ballpark with High A Daytona in 2003, striking the bird (an endangered species) with a blow that eventually killed it.

Other minor league deals (with invites): infielder Mike Lamb (Florida) and righthander Kip Wells (Cincinnati).  

Washington is reportedly in discussions with righthander Kris Benson – apparently with the thought that the former number one overall draft pick could serve as a mentor (and cautionary tale) for Nationals righty Stephen Strasburg.

Texas, according to Melissa Segura of Sports Illustrated, is among at least seven teams interested in highly touted 17-year-old Dominican righthander Rafael DePaula, who is reportedly also considering Japan.

Doug Brocail, who retired last week, was named a front office advisor by the Astros, who also offered him a minor league pitching coach position.

The Lake County Fielders of the independent Northern League signed infielder Kyle Higgins.

With spring training about to get underway, I’ll have a new DirecTV/Newberg Report special offer to share with you in the next day or two.  You shouldn’t be heading into camp without MLB Network.

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