What we're watching – Cards look to sweep

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– Ricky Nolasco has pitched well in two starts since returning from the
minors, but he has a tough assignment ahead of him in Boston tonight.
Jon Lester, who has fanned 34 and allowed three runs in his last three
starts, will get the ball as the Red Sox try to complete a home sweep
of the Marlins. They’re a major league-best 23-8 in home games this
season.

– With Mike Hampton down, Brandon Backe will make his first start of
the year against the Rangers. He’s allowed 12 runs and 17 hits in nine
innings out of the pen since coming off the DL, so it looks like it
could be a big night for Texas hitters. Backe has given up eight homers
and 21 runs in 24 1/3 innings lifetime against the Rangers.

– Vin Mazzaro, who opened his career with 17 2/3 scoreless innings
before giving up three runs to the Giants last time out, takes on the
Dodgers tonight. Los Angeles will counter with Randy Wolf, in what
would seem to be a pretty easy matchup for the left-hander. However,
the A’s hitters who have faced Wolf have tended to be very successful
against him. Jason Giambi has homered in both of his at-bats against
Wolf. Orlando Cabrera is at .316/.372/.500 in 38 at-bats, and Nomar
Garicaparra is 7-for-14 with two homers. Matt Holliday is 3-for-11 with
one homer and five RBI.

Game of the Night

Detroit vs. St. Louis – Two of the game’s top groundball pitchers will
face off with Rick Porcello and Joel Pineiro on the mound tonight. The
Cardinals are going for a sweep of the three-game series after
withstanding a pair of Curtis Granderson homers to win 4-3 on
Wednesday. For it to happen, Pineiro will have to snap a string that’s
seem him take losses in each of his last four starts. He’s 5-7 with a
3.99 ERA for the season, but he has gone 6-1 with a 2.82 ERA lifetime
against the Tigers. Porcello is 7-4 with a 3.71 ERA.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.