No timetable for ailing Tony La Russa’s return to Cardinals

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Tony La Russa is expected to miss the Cardinals’ entire six-game road trip that began last night after leaving the team to have his shingles treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that the manager could miss “significantly more time.”

Strauss quotes a source who calls La Russa’s leave an “open-ended convalescence” rather than a predetermined absence and general manager John Mozeliak indicated that there’s no timetable for his return, saying: “We don’t have a real high level of confidence on that to know what the outlook looks like.”

Bench coach Joe Pettini, rather than longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan, will serve as acting manager while La Russa is out, but Strauss reports that he’s chosen not to use La Russa’s office “as a show of respect.”

La Russa has experienced eye swelling, diminished vision, and “excruciating pain … radiated from the eye to the back of his head.” Strauss writes that he “typically eschewed pain medication because it made him drowsy” but “Mozeliak, coaches, and some players pressed La Russa to seek more aggressive treatment.”

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.