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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 3/27/17

Niese released; Rotation competition still open; Yanks could be underdogs; Diamondbacks return Rule 5 draftee Jones

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Pittsburgh Pirates Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports | Bryan Hoch: The Yankees had the 2017 World Series all but locked up, but the road to championship just got harder. The team has released Jonathon Niese, who signed a minor league deal and was trying to secure an Opening Day bullpen spot but wasn’t able to do so. It’s still possible he could be re-signed, but as of now the team just felt his arm strength wasn’t where they would like it to be.

New York Daily News | Mike Mazzeo: The two spots after that are what has been unknown all spring, and nobody has been able to help themselves. It seemed like Bryan Mitchell was putting himself in position to lock up a spot, but after a rough outing the picture is just as murky. Jordan Montgomery (Wednesday) and Luis Severino (Thursday) will each get one last chance to make their case.

New York Post | Mike Vaccaro: Don’t look now (or look, I’m a blogger not a cop) but the “big, bad Yankees” are suddenly lovable underdogs. It seems almost impossible to think about, but the Yankees have a chance to become a team that people will root for, even if they don’t root for the Yankees. While it still seems difficult for non-Yankee fans to root for them, an influx of youth and persona that’s on the horizon makes it seem almost possible.

NBC Sports | Ashley Varela: Back in December, the Yankees lost a handful of players in the Rule 5 Draft, but one of them has officially returned to the Yankees. Though, it’s the one you expected (or wanted), the Yankees received Tyler Jones back from the Diamondbacks on Friday. While it seemed like Jones had a decent chance of staying with the Diamondbacks when he was drafted, a rough spring caused Arizona to look elsewhere and return Jones. Jones had a solid 2016 with Double-A Trenton, and has been assigned to Triple-A Scranton to start this year.