Alex Rodriguez misses sixth straight game with sprained thumb

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Alex Rodriguez is out of the starting lineup for the sixth straight game tonight due to a sprained left thumb. But it isn’t all bad news.

According to the Associated Press, Rodriguez was encouraged after taking batting practice this afternoon.

The difference? Following the advice of Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, A-Rod put a strip of athletic tape around his bat which allowed him to take batting practice pain-free.

“Today is a really good day,” Rodriguez said after hitting with two batting practice groups. “I’m really encouraged.”

“It was the best I’ve felt in over a month,” Rodriguez added. “There’s no question. Good idea by Kevin.”

While Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said earlier this week that the injury will likely linger into the postseason, anything that can help take pressure off the thumb is a very good thing. As of now, Yankees manager Joe Girardi hopes to have Rodriguez back in the lineup at third base on Saturday.

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.