Josh Thole expected to begin season in minors

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When the Blue Jays acquired Josh Thole from the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal last month, the expectation was that he would catch the majority of the knuckleballer’s starts in 2013. However, that won’t be the case if all goes according to plan.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos indicated to Mike Cormack of Sportsnet.ca yesterday that ideally Thole will begin the season with Triple-A Buffalo while Henry Blanco, who was recently signed to a non-guaranteed, one-year deal, will serve as J.P. Arencibia’s backup.

“Blanco has not been guaranteed the job at all,” Anthopoulos explained. “That’s why he’s on a non-guaranteed contract. But again, if it works out that Blanco’s the backup and Thole ends up being optioned down here, organizationally that means things are going well. Blanco was good enough to be the backup and now we’ve got tremendous depth.”

Blanco caught seven of Dickey’s starts in 2010 when they were teammates with the Mets, so the 41-year-old is a viable alternative as a backup. If Arencibia suffers an injury, Thole would be at the ready to handle the majority of the starts behind the plate.

The Blue Jays and Thole avoided arbitration yesterday by agreeing to a two-year, $2.5 million contract with a club option for 2015. The 26-year-old backstop is coming off a disappointing season in which he batted just .234/.294/.290 and missed nearly a month with a concussion.

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.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.