Lou Piniella still has high hopes for 'The Fook'

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Lou Piniella has recently begun referring to Kosuke Fukudome as “The Fook,” which I think is absolutely fantastic. Asked how he came up with the new nickname, the manager replied: “I like the name. It’s easy to say.”
Through his interpreter Fukudome signed off on the nickname and then Piniella talked about his expectations for the third-year outfielder:

We think Fukudome is gonna have a good year. It’s a learning process, and compound that with a new country. It takes a while, but now he’s passed his freshman and sophomore years. He’s a junior now and ready to go. Let’s hope he has a nice breakout year, .280 or .285, drive in 70 or 80 runs. I don’t care about power numbers. On-base percentage, getting on base, driving in some runs, handle the bat … the power numbers will take care of itself.

Fukudome will likely begin the season platooning with Xavier Nady in right field, and while “driving in 70 or 80 runs” may prove difficult while sitting out a couple games per week, playing almost exclusively against right-handed pitching should do wonders for his rate stats.
The Fook is a .262/.372/.417 career hitter versus right-handers compared to just .242/.343/.324 versus southpaws. However, if Fukudome goes into another one of his extended slumps Piniella probably won’t hesitate to bench him and give Nady a bunch of starts against righties 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.