UPDATE: The Daily News is reporting that, despite the contact between Damon and the Yankees, Damon in New York is “unlikely” and that “there just isn’t enough playing time” for him in the Bronx.
Wednesday, 6:58 PM: Ken Davidoff of New York’s Newsday heard from a source Wednesday that the Yankees have spoken with the representatives for free agent Johnny Damon about a possible reunion.
A deal is “not close” and “far from guaranteed,” however, because the Yanks can only offer Damon limited looks at designated hitter (where Jorge Posada is expected to start most nights) and in left field (where Brett Gardner has proven himself worthy of everyday playing time). Damon is thought to be looking for more of a regular gig.
The 37-year-old veteran batted .285/.363/.458 with 77 total home runs over four seasons with the Yankees from 2006-2009, but he finished with an unremarkable .277/.355/.401 line over 539 at-bats this past year in Detroit. He’s also a very poor defensive outfielder.
The free agent market is nothing more than a scrap heap at this point, but the Yankees can do better in their search for bench players. Or utilitymen. Or whatever Damon would be in New York.
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.
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.