Mariano Rivera making progress following vocal cord surgery

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Mariano Rivera hasn’t had any setbacks since undergoing surgery early last month to remove polyps on his vocal cords. In fact, he spent a couple hours earlier today coaching some youth players during a clinic at the Frozen Ropes baseball facility in Pine Brook, New Jersey.

According to Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger, the all-time saves leader has been speaking regularly for a couple weeks now and has one more follow-up appointment with doctors during which he hopes to get cleared to begin preparations for the season.

“I was worried about something else, even though the doctor says it doesn’t look like it,” Rivera said on Saturday morning, in his first public comments since undergoing throat surgery on Dec. 2. “But I had peace when the results came and everything was negative. Thank God, everything’s good. I’m just trying to get ready for spring training.”

Rivera, 42, posted a 1.91 ERA, 44 saves and a 60/8 K/BB ratio over 61 1/3 innings last season. While he continues to defy age and build on his reputation as the best relief pitcher ever, he has yet to declare his intentions beyond 2012.

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.