Nationals “have dabbled” in Zimmermann extension talks

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It has become almost commonplace for major league teams to lock up talented, cost-controlled pitchers through their arbitration years. And the Nationals are apparently thinking about getting in on the act.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that the Nats “have dabbled in preliminary conversations” with the representatives for right-hander Jordan Zimmermann. Nothing is close yet, but the sides could look to strike an agreement by next winter.

Zimmermann, who qualified as a Super Two and thus gained four years of arbitration eligibility, is making $2.3 million this season. The 25-year-old registered a 3.18 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 124/31 K/BB ratio across 161 1/3 innings in 2011 and is off to a superb start in 2012.

The Giants gave 22-year-old left-hander Madison Bumgarner a five-year, $35 million extension last week.

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.