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Orioles will tender contract to closer Jim Johnson

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Orioles closer Jim Johnson is on track to receive another hefty raise in arbitration this winter, but he’s not going anywhere. Orioles executive vice president Jim Duquette told Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com yesterday that the team fully intends to tender him a contract for 2014.

“Jim Johnson is one of our core players,” said Duquette, who has emphasized keeping that core intact for the organization to sustain success. “Jimmy has done something historic in terms of the numbers of games he’s saved over the last couple years, so he’s established significant value. He came into the job last year, I think he had nine saves in his career, and over the last two years, he has over 100, 99.”

Johnson has struggled at various points this season, resulting in a major-league leading nine blown saves, but he has a 2.90 ERA over 72 appearances and leads the American League with 48 saves. The 30-year-old has 99 saves over the past two seasons, which is more than anyone.

Johnson earned $6.5 million this season and his salary could jump to the $9 million range via the arbitration process this winter. He will be a free agent after the 2014 season.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.

Tigers to give Omar Infante some work in center field this spring

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Omar Infante #4 of the Detroit Tigers follows through on an RBI single scoring Prince Fielder #28 during the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field  on September 11, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
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Veteran Omar Infante has spent the overwhelming majority of his career as an infielder, but the Tigers plan to give him some playing time in center field this spring. The Tigers’ center field situation is still murky and adding more versatility would increase Infante’s odds of making the roster.

Infante, 35, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers in December. He played 39 games for the Royals last season, batting .239/.279/.321 in 149 plate appearances while playing second base exclusively. Infante last played in the outfield in 2010 with the Braves, and last played center field specifically in ’09 with the Braves.

The Tigers currently have Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones at the top of their center field depth chart. It is not what one would call “optimal.”