Jake Peavy’s uncertain status has Chris Sale preparing to be a starter in 2011

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Earlier this week White Sox general manager Kenny Williams indicated that he expects Jake Peavy to begin 2011 on the disabled list following shoulder surgery and Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports that Chris Sale, who thrived out of the bullpen as a rookie, has “embarked on an offseason program designed for him to step into the rotation.”

Pitching coach Don Cooper has said previously that he’d prefer if Sale began 2011 in the bullpen again and gradually transitioned into starting during the season, but with Peavy looking unlikely to be ready for Opening Day and perhaps being out for the first several months of the season it makes more sense to have Sale starting from Day 1.

Cooper told Gonzales that the decision is ultimately the GM’s call, saying: “Whatever Kenny wants to do, we’ll do.” Barring a trade Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Edwin Jackson, and Gavin Floyd are locked in as the White Sox’s top four starters, leaving Sale or Tony Pena as the likely candidates for the No. 5 spot.

Sale made his big-league debut in early August, just two months after being the 13th overall pick in the draft, and tossed 23.1 innings with a 1.93 ERA and 32/10 K/BB ratio in 21 appearances, all out of the bullpen. However, the 6-foot-6 southpaw was a full-time starter in college and led the NCAA in strikeouts during his final season at Florida Gulf Coast University.

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.