Astros demote struggling starter J.A. Happ to Triple-A

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J.A. Happ apparently used up all his good luck with the Phillies.

Happ had a 14-5 record and 3.11 ERA in 217 career innings when Philadelphia traded him to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal last July, but since then he’s 9-18 with a 5.32 ERA in 191 innings.

That includes an ugly 6.26 ERA and league-high 14 losses this season, but Happ won’t have a chance to go for 20 losses because the Astros have optioned him to Triple-A.

Happ was never as good as his win-loss record and ERA suggested in Philadelphia, sporting a mediocre strikeout rate and so-so control while getting outstanding support from the lineup and defense.

On the other hand, he also hasn’t been nearly as bad as his current record and ERA suggest. Ultimately he’s a fairly run-of-the-mill mid-rotation starter and will probably be back in Houston next month, with a full-time rotation spot all but reserved for 2012. After all, it’s not like the Astros have a ton of superior options.

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.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.