The Rockies’ pursuit of Justin Morneau could “heat up” soon

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With Todd Helton now off to greener pastures, the Rockies need a new first baseman. You can expect them to start pursuing free agent Justin Morneau more heavily this week, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Morneau, now 32, was traded to the Pirates at the end of August after a 10 and a half year career with the Twins. He wasn’t particularly effective, mustering just a .681 OPS without hitting a home run in his month-plus with the Pirates.

Morneau has dealt with concussion issues since July 2010, when his head connected with then-Blue Jays second baseman John McDonald’s knee attempting to break up a double play. He missed the rest of the season, a total of 78 games. In late June 2011, he underwent surgery to address a herniated disc, knocking him out of another 55 games. He was shut down for the season at the end of August with an array of ailments, most importantly concussion symptoms that had flared up again. While he has played in at least 134 games in each of the past two seasons, he has been a shadow of his former self.

Colorado could be a good destination for Morneau, especially on a short-term deal. He would benefit from the hitter-friendly confines, which would allow him to rebuild his value and give him potentially one more chance to earn a nice contract before his career is over. In the event the Rockies don’t land Morneau, they consider James Loney their fallback option.

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.