Zack Cozart cleared for baseball activities following Tommy John surgery

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Zack Cozart was in attendance at Redsfest yesterday and confirmed to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com that he was cleared to resume full baseball activities beginning Monday. Cozart suffered a season-ending injury to his left (non-throwing) elbow in mid-July and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in August.

“It’s been rehab for three months ever since the season ended,” Cozart said. “Every day, just elbow, elbow, elbow. Finally I get to do baseball — swinging, fielding, throwing. I’m basically full go. It’s a process.”

The injury occurred at an unfortunate time for Cozart, who took over the starting shortstop job from the underwhelming combo of Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria in early-July and batted .324 (12-for-37) with two homers and three RBI over his first 11 major league games. The good news is that the 26-year-old is expected to be 100 percent in time for spring training.

While Cozart is projected to be the starting shortstop next season, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said today that he is in the process of looking for a quality backup. Sheldon hears that the club was interested in utility man Ramon Santiago before he re-signed with the Tigers earlier this week.

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.