Jose Contreras goes home

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Jose Contreras defected from Cuba in 2002 while playing a game in Mexico. When he did that, and especially after signing a $32 million contract with the New York Yankees, he became persona non grata in Cuba.  He, like all other defectors, were barred from returning home and labeled traitors.

But a change in Cuban law that went into effect last month allow defectors to return to Cuba to visit and eases restrictions on the comings and goings of residents.  Contreras was the first big name athlete to take advantage of that law and recently returned home for the first time in a decade.

CNN has the story, with some emotional words from Contreras himself.

While the money and fame obviously make the decision of athletes who defect an understandable one, it’s hard to imagine how they live for years, even decades, without meaningful contact with their family.  Here’s hoping we’ve seen the end of those days.

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.