Clayton Kershaw placed on “submaximal throwing program,” now likely to miss all of April

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Either the Dodgers are playing it extra-carefully with their $215 million ace — which would be completely understandable — or Clayton Kershaw’s back injury is more serious than anyone involved is willing to say. These updates come Tuesday from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times

That makes it a near-impossibility that Kershaw will be able to return this month to the active roster, and it’s probably even safe to rule him out through the early part of May. Perhaps the Dodgers shouldn’t have allowed the 26-year-old left-hander to throw 102 pitches in his regular-season debut halfway around the world.

This is good news for the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez, who may have just become the favorite for the NL Cy Young Award. Adam Wainwright also now has better odds after last year’s second-place finish.

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.