Japan goes to a standardized baseball

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From the Department of Stuff I Never Ever Thought About and Even Now Have Trouble Believing, the New York Times had a story over the weekend about the baseballs used by NPB teams, and how — until this year — Japanese teams have all been able to use different suppliers for baseballs.

In addition to the stuff about the balls themselves, it’s a neat read for the background info on the way Japanese teams and the league interact. The teams have all of the power and the league didn’t want to interfere with the business deals each of them had with their ball suppliers. At least until now.

Oh, and the new ball? Deadsville. Very pitcher friendly, it seems, which may make the notion of an American team taking a gamble on a Japanese pitcher even more harrowing than it always has been.

Yu Darvish, anyone?

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.