Braves flamethrower Craig Kimbrel sets rookie saves record

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By picking up No. 27 Thursday against the Rockies, Craig Kimbrel set a rookie record for the most saves prior to the All-Star break.

The old record was 26, set by Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon in 2006.

Kimbrel, who wasn’t picked for next week’s All-Star Game, has received a whopping 32 save chances in the Braves’ 89 games this season.  The next most in either league is 28 for Brian Wilson.

While Kimbrel was quite shaky early, blowing four of his first 15 opportunities, he’s currently converted nine in a row and 16 of his last 17.  He hasn’t even allowed a run since June 11, and his ERA is down to 2.40.

As long as he stays healthy, Kimbrel looks like a shoo-in to claim the NL saves record for a rookie, which has survived for 25 years since Todd Worrell saved 36 games for the Cardinals in 1986.  The major league record is 40, established by Neftali Feliz last season.

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.