A.J. Burnett’s dud could end career on a sour note

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Despite another strong season in which he posted a 3.30 ERA and finished fifth in the NL with 209 strikeouts, free-agent-to-be A.J. Burnett is contemplating retirement this winter. It’s hard to imagine that he’ll want to go out like that, though.

Burnett was blasted for seven runs in two-plus innings Thursday in the Pirates’ Game 1 loss to the Cardinals. After starting off with a pair of scoreless innings, he retired none of the seven hitters he faced in the third.

The outing left the 36-year-old Burnett 2-3 with a 6.37 ERA in eight postseason starts. He has two World Series rings anyway. The first came with the Marlins in 2003, though he didn’t pitch in October that year after Tommy John surgery. He also got one in 2009, when the Yankees won in spite of his struggles. Burnett did pitch well in his previous postseason start in the 2011 ALDS against the Tigers, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings and picking up a win.

The Pirates will probably go back to Burnett in Game 5 against the Cardinals if the series gets that far, though they’d certainly have him on a shorter leash in that one than they did today. Game 2 starter, Gerrit Cole, would also be able to pitch Game 5 on normal rest, which could set up a tough decision if Cole excels tomorrow. The Pirates are going to need him to if they’re going to have much of a shot at coming back in the series.

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.