Michael Morse aggravates lat muscle tear, will be in “total shutdown mode” for six weeks

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Michael Morse was on the verge of coming off the disabled list when he experienced pain while throwing on his minor-league rehab assignment and the news on the Nationals left fielder isn’t good.

General manager Mike Rizzo told reporters that Morse aggravated his torn lat muscle and will be in “total shutdown mode” for at least six weeks, adding that surgery is not an option to repair the injury.

That would still leave some time for Morse to potentially return before the All-Star break, but given his previous setback seeing him in the Nationals’ lineup before the second half seems unlikely. Morse is a huge loss, as he emerged as one of the league’s top hitters during the past two seasons while batting .298 with 31 homers and an .896 OPS in 163 games.

Calling up Bryce Harper from Triple-A to replace Morse isn’t a consideration according to Rizzo, so instead the Nationals will turn to some combination of Mark DeRosa, Xavier Nady, and Roger Bernadina in bigger roles.

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.