Indians to sign John Axford

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ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that the Indians are expected to sign free agent reliever John Axford. We learned earlier that Indians president Mark Shapiro was expecting to sign a reliever soon and he moved quickly in talks with Axford.

Axford was non-tendered by the Cardinals on December 2 and has drawn interest from a number of teams, including the Orioles, Cubs, and Mariners. The right-hander should be expected to close, while Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw remain in their eighth-inning roles. Axford had lost his role as closer with the Brewers to Jim Henderson, and the Brewers eventually traded Axford to the Cardinals for Michael Blazek at the end of August, so it will be compelling to see if he can bounce back in the ninth inning.

Update: MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian confirms. The deal is pending a physical. Bastian adds:

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.