Josh Hamilton is “kidding, kidding, kidding, kidding”

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Once upon a time the Rangers regularly avoided playing Josh Hamilton in center field because they hoped moving to a corner spot would help keep him healthy, but those plans are out the window now.

Hamilton is slated to be the primary center fielder for the first time since 2009 and because he prefers center field that decision is fine with the former MVP, but he also suggested that perhaps the Rangers’ changing their minds has to do with his impending free agency:

I don’t know, you think it’s got anything to do with free agency and get as much out of me as they can before they get rid of me?

Hamilton previously made headlines for saying that he didn’t owe the Rangers anything in contract negotiations, so he was quick to make it clear that the “get as much out of me as they can before they get rid of me” comment was a joke.

Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas notes that Hamilton “made that comment with a big grin on his face” and then followed it up by saying:

I was just kidding. I was just kidding. I was just kidding. Kidding, kidding, kidding, kidding.

Kidding or not, there’s probably some truth behind the comment, particularly since there’s speculation that Hamilton’s injury history and off-field issues have made the Rangers extremely hesitant to sign him to a long-term deal.

Much like a team being more willing to ride a free agent-to-be starting pitcher for high pitch counts before he hits the open market keeping Hamilton healthy long term may not be the Rangers’ problem beyond this season.

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.