Nationals targeting August 1 return for Jayson Werth “may be a bit too optimistic”

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Jayson Werth still hasn’t been cleared to swing a bat yet 10 weeks after breaking his wrist on May 6, but Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that the wrist is healed and the Nationals continue to target August 1 for his return date.

According to Zuckerman “that may be a bit too optimistic, but the club fully expects to have its veteran right fielder back for the stretch run.”

Because primary fill-in Steve Lombardozzi has played so well and the Nationals are in first place with the NL’s best record there’s little need to rush Werth back, so expect a lengthy minor-league rehab assignment during which he can show that the wrist injury hasn’t sapped his power.

Once he does return Bryce Harper will likely be asked to play center field regularly, with Mike Morse and Werth flanking him in the outfield corners and Lombardozzi sliding into a super-utility man role. Werth was having a nice bounceback season before the injury, hitting .276 with an .810 OPS in 27 games.

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.