Orioles have “definite interest” in free agent Grant Balfour

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There hasn’t been much speculation surrounding Grant Balfour, largely because he’s a Type A free agent and most teams aren’t keen on surrendering a first-round draft pick to sign a non-closer reliever.

In fact, Balfour declining the Rays’ arbitration offer last month was viewed by many as a surprise because of how much the draft pick attached to signing him would hurt his market value.

However, teams with a pick in the top half of the first round have their pick protected, meaning they’d only lose a second-round pick for signing Balfour. That means sub-.500 teams–or above-.500 teams that have already signed another Type A guy–are his most likely suitors, so it makes sense that the Orioles have “definite interest” in Balfour, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com.

He’d be used as a late-inning setup man in Baltimore after filling that same role in Tampa Bay for the past three seasons, going 13-7 with a 2.98 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 181 innings. If the draft pick compensation is scary most teams off the Orioles could get a bargain on a shutdown reliever, but their reported heavy interest in Kevin Gregg could ultimately rule out Balfour.

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.