Report: Red Sox aggressively pursuing Ryan Dempster

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A source told ESPN’s Buster Olney that the Red Sox are aggressively pursuing the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster in a bid to shore up their rotation.

The Red Sox have already worked out one deal this year with their former employees in Chicago (team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer), but the Marlon Byrd trade was small potatoes compared to a potential Dempster deal.

Dempster, a free agent at season’s end, is currently working on a 33-inning scoreless streak and is 5-3 with a 1.86 ERA in 92 innings for the season. The Cubs are thought to want young pitching and perhaps a third-base prospect in return for him.

The Red Sox have maybe the game’s best third-base prospect in 19-year-old Xander Bogaerts. He’s currently a shortstop, but he is outgrowing the position and most project him to shift to third or the outfield. It’s doubtful they’d part with him for a rental, though. They do have 21-year-old Garin Cecchini they can make available. He’s hitting .309/.389/.441 in low-A ball.

Young pitchers the Red Sox could deal include right-handers Anthony Ranaudo, Stolmy Pimentel and Alex Wilson and left-handers Henry Owens and Drake Britton.

A less likely possibility is that they could send left-hander Felix Doubront to Chicago. Doubront has nine wins for Boston this year, but he’s struggled some lately. With Matt Garza and Paul Maholm also potentially on the block, the Cubs would certainly appreciate some young pitching capable of stepping right into the rotation.

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.