Carl Crawford “creeped out” by the Red Sox

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Last week general manager Theo Epstein revealed that the Red Sox had scouts tracking Carl Crawford on and off the field last season in preparation for potentially signing him as a free agent, saying it was “as if we were privately investigating him.”

That was apparently news to Crawford, who told Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com yesterday that he was “creeped out a little bit” and “a little freaked out” to learn of the Red Sox’s surveillance, calling it “a little weird.”

Here’s more from Crawford:

I didn’t say nothing, but I’m from an area where if somebody’s doing that to you, they’re not doing anything good. I get paranoid when I hear those kind of stories, so I definitely take a different approach when I do things now. It did have an effect on me, let me put it that way. I definitely look over my shoulder now a lot more than what I did before.

Just when he told me that, the idea of him following me everywhere I go, was kind of, I wasn’t comfortable with that at all. I don’t know how they do it, how much distance they keep from you when they watch you the whole time. I definitely check my back now, at least 100 yard radius. I’m always looking over my shoulder now. Now I look before I go in my house. I’d better not see anything suspicious now.

Crawford’s reaction has predictably led to Epstein backtracking a bit from his original statements, beginning with saying that the “as if we were privately investigating him” line was “a bad figure of speech.” Here’s more from Epstein:

Our scouts just did a real thorough job on background, that’s all. Felt like we got to know him real well, that’s all. I told him we got to know him real well and we really respected the decisions he made, even away from the park. We told him we trusted him with a long-term contract because of his work ethic and his decision-making, so we’d be involved in the bidding.

Epstein also indicated that the Red Sox have previously followed other potential free agent targets in a similar manner, which probably has quite a few star players feeling “creeped out” today. Ultimately a $142 million contract can smooth over a lot of “weird” feelings and Crawford did tell Edes he understands “that’s what they have to do when they’re making that kind of investment.” Still, this is an awfully strange way for a seven-year relationship to begin. After all, you don’t often hear about a stalker actually marrying a stalkee.

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.