Orlando Hernandez leaves Double-A team amid possible rift with Nationals

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Orlando Hernandez signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals last month and had pitched very well since moving his comeback up to Double-A, posting a 1.86 ERA, .147 opponents’ batting average, and 12/5 K/BB ratio in 9.2 innings as a reliever.
He was presumably in line for a potential September call-up to join his brother Livan Hernandez in Washington, but yesterday El Duque “abruptly” left the Double-A team because, as Nationals director of player development Doug Harris explained:

He realized the opportunity he was seeking may not present itself here, and he felt it was time to go in another direction.

However, according to Geoff Morrow of the Harrisburg Patriot News “sources said Hernandez left in part because the Nationals hadn’t yet given him a major league shot despite his helping the organization sign highly touted Cuban pitcher Yunesky Maya earlier this summer.”
Harris called that “a bad rumor” but then did lend a bit of credence to the notion by saying:

I have no idea about his direct influence [with signing Maya]. I don’t think he hand-delivered him to us. Yunesky Maya’s agent is also Livan Hernandez’s agent. I think [Orlando Hernandez] was comforting for Yunesky, but he didn’t walk him to us.

Who knows what went on behind closed doors, but it certainly wouldn’t seem like a huge stretch if the Nationals signed Hernandez in the hopes he could help them bring in Maya and at least hinted strongly that he’d be in line for a call-up in the process. Or maybe not, who knows. Either way, Hernandez signed a minor-league deal, pitched well for a month at two different levels, and then quit right when a call-up would have been most likely.

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.