Billy Hamilton likely to open 2014 as Reds’ lead-off man and starting center fielder

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Billy Hamilton was a weapon off the bench for the Reds in September as the team geared up for a run at the NL Wild Card. In 2014, Hamilton is expected to play full-time as the Reds’ lead-off man and starting center fielder, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Shin-Soo Choo patrolled center for them in 2013, but as he is expected to sign elsewhere in free agency, the Reds seem content to let Hamilton prove himself on a full-time basis.

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said, “It’s going to be very difficult for us with the amount of money that’s out there. [Hamilton] would be our leadoff hitter if we went to Spring Training tomorrow.”

In his first taste of Major League action in September, the 23-year-old Hamilton stole 13 bases in 14 attempts while hitting .368 in 22 trips to the plate. With Triple-A Louisville, where he spent most of his time throughout the 2013 season, Hamilton stole 75 bases in 90 attempts while hitting .256.

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.