Cardinals acquire reliever John Axford from Brewers

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With closer Edward Mujica pitching through shoulder problems the Cardinals decided to add some veteran bullpen depth, acquiring former closer John Axford from the Brewers for a player to be named later.

Axford pitched his way out of ninth-inning duties in Milwaukee after saving a league-high 46 games in 2011 and 35 games last season, and had an ugly two-homer appearance over the weekend.

However, since carrying a 9.00 ERA into mid-May he’s thrown 40 innings with a 2.70 ERA and 37/17 K/BB ratio while holding opponents to a .364 slugging percentage. That’s not quite the peak Axford from his 2011 success, but it’s certainly good enough to help the Cardinals in a setup role and he’s averaged 95.2 miles per hour with his fastball this year.

Axford is also under team control through 2016, although with a $5 million salary for this season and more arbitration-fueled raises ahead the Cardinals might deem him too expensive to keep.

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.