Merry Strasmas, for a second time this year

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Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg will make his second major league start of the 2011 season on Sunday afternoon against the Astros.

The 23-year-old returned from a year-long recovery from Tommy John surgery last Tuesday night and hurled five scoreless innings against the Dodgers, yielding just two hits while striking out four batters. His four-seam fastball averaged 96.7 mph and his off-speed stuff looked to be in midseason form.

Strasburg now has a 2.71 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 96/17 K/BB ratio through the first 73 innings of his MLB career. He’ll look to build on those impressive numbers with several more home starts down the stretch.

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.