Carlos Zambrano leaves Cubs to visit sick 11-year-old nephew in Venezuela

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After holding the Nationals to one run over 7.1 innings last night for his best start of the season Carlos Zambrano left the Cubs and flew home to Venezuela to be with his sick 11-year-old nephew.
Zambrano told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune that his nephew has been hospitalized with a bacterial infection and “is in bad condition.” Zambrano is expected to rejoin the team this weekend and will make his next scheduled start Monday against the Pirates, but pitched last night with his mind on something other than the Nationals’ hitters:

It’s bad. He’s only 11 years old and being close to death is no fun. People should live until their old age, but god calls us home, and what can we do? But at the same time, I talked to my brother and he told me “Don’t worry about what happened there, just worry about what’s going on here and dedicate the game to his son.” In the first inning I was thinking about him, throwing all the pitches saying, “This is for my nephew.”

Since rejoining the rotation a few weeks ago Zambrano is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts, but his 15/16 K/BB ratio isn’t nearly as encouraging.

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.