Not in the pen yet, Aroldis Chapman goes five innings for Reds

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When the Reds said Ryan Madson needed Tommy John surgery, ruling him out for the season, all indications were that Aroldis Chapman was headed back to the pen to help out in the seventh and eighth innings. Yet the 24-year-old Cuban defector made another start Thursday, allowing two runs in five innings against the Brewers.

Facing something close to Milwaukee’s regular lineup, Chapman struck out six and walked none. Obviously, control is the big issue for him as a potential starter — he walked 41 in 50 innings out of the pen last season — but he’s been great this spring, amassing an 18/2 K/BB ratio in 17 innings of work.

The Reds may still figure they’re better off with Chapman in the pen and Homer Bailey in the rotation, and given Bailey’s ever improving peripherals, they might be right. Still, if Chapman can keep his walk rate down, he’d likely be a dynamic starting pitcher. It’d be nice to see what he can do in that role next month, considering that he can always be sent back to the pen later. It’s not quite so easy going the other way.

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.