Jason Varitek is retiring

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This is not surprising given all of the rumblings we’ve heard, but it’s going to be official as of Thursday: Jason Varitek is retiring.  He told the Boston Globe that he will announce it formally in Fort Myers that day.

The end was certainly nigh.  Varitek turns 40 in April. He hit .221/.300/.423 with 11 home runs, 36 RBIs and a .723 OPS over 68 games last season, with basically negative defensive value.  For his career, however, he hit .256/.341/.435 with 193 home runs and 757 RBIs.  He was a three-time All-Star.  He won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award in 2005.  He got a couple of MVP votes along the way.

But more significant is the leadership role he played with the Red Sox teams that will always be remembered for breaking the 86-year World Series drought. And because of that, Varitek’s stature in the team’s history will always be greater than even his considerable stature the pure baseball merits warrant.

Happy trails, Mr. Varitek.  Baseball was better for your being a part of it.

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.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.