Secretariat threw five innings for the Red Sox yesterday

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Josh Beckett’s shoulder injury left the Red Sox needing a fill-in starter yesterday and rather than call someone up from the minors they turned to Franklin Morales, who’d only pitched out of the bullpen since arriving in Boston last year and hadn’t started a game since April 21, 2009.

Morales had thrown more than 40 pitches in appearance just once all season, yet he tossed 80 pitches in five innings of two-run ball against the Cubs while striking out nine and walking zero.

It was a helluva performance, especially on short notice and after being strictly a reliever for more than three years. Or as teammate Vicente Padilla put it afterward: “He was a horse. Secretariat.”

Bobby Valentine told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe that he “had a hunch” Morales would come through with a solid effort and the manager indicated that he may stick in the rotation with Beckett on the disabled list.

(Side note: We’re all agreed that “Secretariat” is Morales’ new nickname for life, right? Has to be.)

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.