Link-O-Rama: Shinskie goes from pitcher to quarterback

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* A fourth-round pick in 2003, David Shinskie has opted to retire from baseball at the age of 25 to compete for the starting quarterback job at Boston College. Shinskie led his high school team to the Pennsylvania state championship as a senior and has four years of eligibility remaining after the 6-foot-4 right-hander went 24-30 with a 4.61 ERA in seven seasons as a minor-league pitcher.
* Shaquille O’Neal probably won’t be switching sports like Shinskie. Shaq threw out the first pitch in St. Louis yesterday and the baseball looked more like a golf ball coming out of his hands, but the 7-foot-1 right-hander fired a strike.
* Justin Duchscherer finally looks ready to make his season debut following spring elbow surgery and could get the nod as soon as Friday against the White Sox. Duchscherer was 20 innings short of leading the league in ERA last season, so a couple decent outings could make him attractive to contenders looking for a last-minute addition.
* Alex Rios joined the White Sox yesterday, but didn’t play against the Mariners and couldn’t talk rookie Gordon Beckham into giving up No. 15. Rios will go with No. 51 instead.
* Signed to a minor-league contract last month in the hopes that he could provide the Twins with a viable alternative at second base down the stretch, Mark Grudzielanek was released Monday after going 8-for-30 with zero extra-base hits and two errors in eight games at Double-A. Twins minor-league director Jim Rantz explained that “it just wasn’t the right fit.” Grudzielanek had a slightly different take, saying that “they just wasted my time.” Sounds like both were probably right, especially now that Minnesota is 54-58.
* Derek Jeter is apparently clutch off the field too.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

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.