Astros release outfielder Rick Ankiel

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This hardly comes as a surprise, but Sara Eckert of CSNHouston.com reports that the Astros have officially released outfielder Rick Ankiel.

Ankiel was designated for assignment earlier this week as part of a mini-roster shakeup and passed through waivers unclaimed. While the 33-year-old outfielder ranked second on the Astros with five home runs, he was batting just .194 with a .234 on-base percentage and had a miserable 35/3 K/BB ratio in 65 plate appearances. That’s a strikeout rate of 53.8 percent. Yikes.

That Ankiel was dumped by the worst team in the American League doesn’t bode well for his chances of finding an opportunity elsewhere. Still, he’s had a heck of a career for someone who appeared done in his early 20s.

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.