Tampa Bay did some roster shuffling, designating first baseman Dan Johnson for assignment and optioning reliever Rob Delaney back to Triple-A while calling up outfielder Justin Ruggiano and activating reliever J.P. Howell from the disabled list.
Howell’s return is the most interesting development, as he had back-to-back impressive seasons as a reliever before blowing out his shoulder, posting a 2.48 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 156 innings between 2008 and 2009.
If healthy Howell could further boost a bullpen that ranks fourth among AL teams with a 3.20 ERA despite losing Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, and Dan Wheeler to free agency.
Johnson showed good plate discipline and power for the Rays, but hit just .168 in 75 games dating back to last season and gave way to Casey Kotchman as the primary first baseman. Ruggiano returns to the majors for the first time since 2008 and at 29 years old is no longer a prospect, but he could be a solid contributor in a platoon role if spotted mostly versus left-handed pitching.
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.
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.