King Felix and Prince Pineda? Mariners hand rotation spot to 22-year-old top prospect

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This morning’s news that the Mariners have optioned Luke French to Triple-A makes it all but official: Stud prospect Michael Pineda has secured a spot in the Opening Day rotation at age 22.

Pineda was big when the Mariners signed him out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old in 2005, but now he’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds. And he has the high-90s fastball and dominant results to match, splitting last season between Double-A and Triple-A while posting a 3.36 ERA and 154/34 K/BB ratio in 139 innings.

Last month Baseball America ranked him as the No. 16 prospect in all of baseball and Pineda apparently won the job with a 2.12 ERA and 15/6 K/BB ratio in 17 innings this spring.

Seattle’s offense may still be terrible this season and starting Pineda’s service time clock ticking seems like an iffy call, but the thought of Pineda developing into a top-of-the-rotation starter alongside the top-of-the-rotation starter Felix Hernandez should help Mariners fans get through the year in one piece.

Would it be too corny to call them King Felix and Prince Pineda?

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.