Ryan Howard has officially been benched by the Phillies

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Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported yesterday that the Phillies have considered releasing struggling first baseman Ryan Howard with more than $60 million remaining on his contract and today is the day it becomes totally clear that the former MVP has been benched.

Philadelphia is facing a right-handed pitcher, which the left-handed-hitting Howard has made a career of knocking around, and that right-handed pitcher is Tim Hudson, against whom Howard has hit .328 with seven homers and a 1.112 OPS in a ton of career matchups.

So if ever there was a game to start Howard it’s today, yet manager Ryne Sandberg has Darin Ruf starting at first base. Ruf hits right-handed and it’s possible Sandberg will eventually simply platoon him with Howard at first base, but it’s also possible that Howard will be released with the Phillies eating a huge portion of his $125 million contract and the odds of that seemingly rose today.

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.