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The Red Sox lowered Carlos Marmol’s release point

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Carlos Marmol was once one of baseball’s toughest closers to hit. He didn’t pitch in the majors at all last season and had to settle for a minor league contract with the Red Sox for the 2016 campaign. At this peak of his career, in 2010, Marmol saved 38 games with 138 strikeouts and 52 walks in 77 2/3 innings. What happened?

The Red Sox believe they’ve identified the culprit, WEEI’s John Tomase writes. Brian Bannister, the director of pitching analysis and development for the Red Sox, noticed that Marmol had been releasing the ball at a higher point in recent years, which limited the effectiveness of his slider.

The theory has some merit. Here are his vertical and horizontal release points, via Brooks Baseball:

Brooksbaseball-Chart (1) Brooksbaseball-Chart

Marmol will have to prove Bannister right with a strong spring performance if he wants to make the Opening Day roster.

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.