Derek Jeter returns to New York sitting on 2,997 career hits

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Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter talked his way into the starting lineup Wednesday evening in Cleveland and pushed a step closer to reaching one of baseball’s elite milestones: 3,000 career hits.

Jeter struck out on a tricky fastball from Indians right-hander Justin Masterson to open the game and then flied out to center field in the third inning. In the sixth he drew a walk, his first since returning from a three-week battle with a right calf strain.

The heroics finally arrived in the eighth.

Jeter tallied the 2,997th hit of his career in his final at-bat of the night, ripping a one-out double over the head of Indians right fielder Austin Kearns. He then advanced to third base on a groundout by outfielder Curtis Granderson but was stranded when first baseman Mark Teixeira was retired to end the frame. The Yankees lost to the Indians 5-3.

Jeter heads back to Yankee Stadium on Thursday for the start of a four-game series against the Rays. He’s in prime position to reach hit No. 3,000 in front of the fans who’ve cheered him on through thick and thin over the past 17-plus seasons. It should be quite an atmosphere this weekend in New York.

Jeter is 5-for-9 lifetime against Thursday’s scheduled starter Jeff Niemann, 1-for-2 lifetime against Friday’s starter Jeremy Hellickson, 6-for-25 (.240) against Saturday’s starter David Price and 17-for-54 (.315) against Sunday’s starter James Shields. Of course, small sample sizes such as these mean very little and every one of Jeter’s at-bats is going to be accompanied by postseason-like pressure. Past results matter not.

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.