Royals’ projected 2011 payroll is $33 million (or $2 million more than Alex Rodriguez’s salary)

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Gil Meche turning down $12 million by retiring and Billy Butler signing a backloaded long-term contract leaves the Royals with very little in terms of 2011 commitments.

In fact, according to Craig Brown of Royals Authority their projected payroll barring any last-minute additions is right around $33 million. To put that in some context, consider that only the Padres and Pirates had an Opening Day payroll under $50 million last season. Oh, and Alex Rodriguez will earn $31 million from the Yankees in 2011.

Kansas City’s payroll last season was $71 million and the Royals haven’t had a payroll under $33 million since 2000. Back then their young building blocks included a 23-year-old Carlos Beltran and 26-year-olds Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, and Mike Sweeney.

Brown hopes that the Royals will use all the money they aren’t spending on big-league players to “be even more aggressive in Latin America,” where top prospects typically sign for around $1 million and even elite talents go for around $3 million. Right now the highest-paid Royal is closer Joakim Soria at $4 million.

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.