Giants demote Brandon Belt to minors, activate Cody Ross from disabled list

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Cody Ross is back from the disabled list and batting cleanup for San Francisco this afternoon, and to make room on the roster the Giants have optioned top prospect Brandon Belt back to Triple-A.

Belt played regularly after somewhat surprisingly making the team out of spring training, starting 13 of 17 games, but he hit just .192 with one homer and a .569 OPS in 60 plate appearances and in order to get him into the lineup the Giants had to weaken the outfield defense with Aubrey Huff in right field.

That’s going to remain an issue whenever Belt returns, because Huff is under contract for $10 million next season and has a $10 million option or $2 million buyout for 2013, but the 23-year-old Belt can benefit from more time in the minors–he spent just 13 games at Triple-A last season–and by sending him back down the Giants keep his service time clock from ticking any further. Belt remains one of the best hitting prospects in baseball, but he’s not a fully formed major leaguer yet and may get some outfield work himself in Fresno.

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.