Rays planning to use rookie Jake McGee as a reliever

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Jake McGee was a starter for 128 of his first 129 appearances as a minor leaguer, establishing himself as one of the top pitching prospects around, but he shifted to the bullpen at Triple-A in the second half of last season and then made his big-league debut as a reliever for the Rays in September.

And today manager Joe Maddon told reporters that McGee will be competing for a bullpen spot this spring, which makes sense given all the free agent relievers the Rays lost this offseason and the fact that fellow prospect Jeremy Hellickson is expected to claim the final rotation spot alongside David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Davis.

I still think McGee has a chance to be a very good starter, but his spotty control will likely be less of an issue in short appearances and his durability is still in some question after missing most of 2008 and 2009 following Tommy John elbow surgery. As a reliever he can let it rip with a mid-90s fastball and high-70s slider, and after racking up 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings as a starter in the minors McGee has a chance to be a shutdown late-inning option from the left side. Don’t be shocked if he’s in the mix for saves before long.

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.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.