Papelbon changes tune on Wagner, not a Rhodes Scholar

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Remember all that stuff about Jonathan Papelbon not wanting the Red Sox to acquire Billy Wagner? Well, either he changed his stance or the Red Sox forced him to change his public stance, because general manager Theo Epstein revealed yesterday that Papelbon “went out of his way to make sure Billy knew that he was more than welcome here.”
Here’s what Papelbon had to say after the trade went down yesterday afternoon:
I think the biggest thing is he’s going to bring some competitiveness to the ballclub, not just to the ballclub, but to the bullpen. Hopefully, he will help us in that stretch run towards a championship. I know the only reason he’s coming over here is to win a championship, and that’s something everybody’s on board with.
I’ve watched him throughout the years. The biggest thing is he pitches with heart. I love guys like that. I like guys who go out there and they wear their heart on their sleeve, and with that “I’m going to get you or you’re going to get me” type of attitude. I’m actually looking really forward to him coming here and kind of picking his brain, seeing how he works, and maybe picking up a couple things from him.

Quite a change from just a few days ago, but then again as Epstein aptly pointed out: “I think Pap feels like he was misunderstood. He’s not a Rhodes Scholar to begin with, obviously.”

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.