Good riddance to Tal’s Hill

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For the past few years, the Astros have discussed getting rid of Tal’s Hill, that little rise of grass on the warning track in center field. It was supposed to happen last offseason but the Astros’ playoff run went later than the people planning the renovation anticipated (i.e. a postseason run happened at all) but, as we noted recently, it is going forward this offseason.

In fact, this very day the equipment is on the field in Minute Maid Park, getting rid of one of baseball’s weirdest park features:

I’m fine with this. Tal’s Hill was kind of dumb. It was a forced quirk that came at a time when ballpark designers went with faux-retro designs. It seemed fun and unique when first revealed, but it was totally inorganic, like so many other distinctive features of ballparks built in the 1990s and early 2000s were. Pointless overhangs and jutting outfield walls. Friezes. Things that, in old parks, were necessitated by real estate constraints (e.g. Fenway Park has odd dimensions and the Green Monster because they literally did not have the land to build the park in a different way). The new ballpark designers were trying to force history and charm on people from day one. Thus, Tal’s Hill.

We’ve mostly gotten out of that retro-era and form is starting to at least attempt to do a better job of following function. Thank goodness. In that spirit, good riddance, Tal’s Hill. A design feature people liked because the Astros told them it was fun and meaningful, even if there was no purpose for it whatsoever.

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.