Report: Pirates will fire Russell, keep Huntington

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The Pirates are ready for change.  Again.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette heard from “several internal sources” this weekend that the Bucs will cut ties with manager John Russell soon after the offseason hits.  GM Neal Huntington, though, is thought to be safe.

Russell’s contract runs through 2011, but the Pirates have 104 losses this season and could wind up with 105 if things don’t go well in Sunday’s regular season finale against the Marlins.  Barely any of the poor play can be blamed on Russell, but this is professional sports.  Major League Baseball is a what have you done for me lately kind of place.  The captain must go down with the ship.  Pick your cliche.

Russell offered some words of optimism after Saturday’s game when asked to review the 2010 season, highlighting the play of youngsters like Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen.  It won’t be enough to save his job, apparently, but Russell is right — there is some light at the end of the tunnel for the Pirates.

“The
thing I look at most is how we developed our young players,” Russell
replied. “I can’t remember since I’ve been here where we’ve had
four-plus guys who can drive in runs for us. We’ve always had one or
two, but you look at Walker, Pedro, Jones, McCutchen … it’s exciting
to see. I think our offense is starting to get some type of identity
where we can score runs now and, if we get good pitching, we’ve got a
pretty good chance to win.”

Russell currently stands 186-298 as a manager and will probably struggle to find a head job in the near future.

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.