Must-click link: The Sam Khalifa story

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I remember watching some Reds-Pirates and Braves-Pirates games on TV in the mid-80s and seeing a guy named Sam Khalifa play shortstop for Pittsburgh. I don’t recall anything notable. I just remember the name and some announcer noting that the American-born Khalifa was (my memory had it) of Libyan or Egyptian or Tunisian extraction. Or something like that. I had completely forgotten about him until this morning.

Why this morning? Because this morning I read Paul Brownfield’s engrossing story about Khalifa in the New York Times, and I now know everything I’d want to know. And so much of it is sad: in 1989 Khalifa had reached a crossroads in his baseball career and left his minor league team. Five months later his father — an idiosyncratic and divisive Muslim leader in Tucson — was brutally murdered. Khalifa never played ball again. He now drives a taxi in Tucson. The story is about Khalifa, his father and the trial of the man accused of his murder.

It’s a slow news day. Take some time to read this fascinating story.

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.