Ruben Amaro denies that the Phillies have considered releasing Ryan Howard

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Yesterday Ryan Howard was benched and rumors sprung up about the Phillies trying to trade him. The day before it was reported that the Phillies were considering simply eating Howard’s contract and releasing him.

Today Ruben Amaro says that’s nonsense. From Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com:

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. emphatically shot down reports that the organization is considering releasing struggling slugger Ryan Howard after the season.

“That is not something we are contemplating,” Amaro said Friday morning. “I don’t know where that’s coming from.

Well, the report came from sources who spoke to Salisbury the other day. And, while Amaro may not actually release Howard, how a GM can approach a problem like Ryan Howard without at least considering the idea of releasing him — it’s one of a couple of options obviously available to him — is rather curious. I realize he can’t exactly publicly say that he’s thinking about releasing one of his guys, but it doesn’t seem credible that the conversation hasn’t at least been had.

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.