Brian Cashman: the Yankees weren’t trying to win the AL East in late 2010

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At the time it was going down it seemed pretty obvious that Joe Girardi and the Yankees, a playoff spot long-secured, were content to try to get healthy and optimized for the playoffs rather than to overtake the Rays for the AL East title.  But you don’t expect to hear anyone on the team admit it like Brian Cashman did the other day:

“I’m not taking away from Tampa Bay, but we didn’t try to win the division,” Cashman said. “We tried to line ourselves up for the playoffs and that worked. “The division title was rendered meaningless the way the set-up was. It really meant nothing more than a T-shirt and a hat.”

Kind of shocking to hear it such stark terms, but on the merits he was right. An extra road game or two and a worse first-round matchup is more than worth it in order to have your starters rested and healthy.

That all changes when the second wild card comes in and the team in the Yankees’ position — a very good team that just happens to be a game worse than their competition — is forced into a one-game playoff. Which, in 2010, would have been the Red Sox.

I still don’t like the idea of an expanded playoff on general stubborn principle, but it’s obvious to see how having one can definitely change the incentives and put a premium on winning the division.

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.