Reds clear Brandon Phillips to begin rehab assignment

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Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips has been cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment Friday at Triple-A after missing the past five weeks following surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament.

Phillips is right on schedule for what was initially expected to be a six-week recovery process.

He was having a poor season before the injury, hitting .272 with seven homers and a .701 OPS that rates as his lowest mark since joining the Reds in 2006. He also swiped just one base in 86 games after averaging 21 steals per season from 2006-2012, so clearly at age 33 he’s showing major signs of decline.

In his absence the Reds have used Skip Schumaker and most recently Kris Negron at second base.

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.