Wagner declines All-Star invite, Kuo takes final spot

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Braves outfielder Jason Heyward backed out of the All-Star Game Saturday due to his ongoing recovery from a left thumb bruise, so National League squad manager Charlie Manuel asked closer Billy Wagner on Sunday if he would like to go to Anaheim instead.  Wagner declined respectfully, citing an ankle injury that he would prefer to rest.

“It’s just good that I take some time off,” Wagner told Mark Bowman of MLB.com.  “I can pitch
on it.  But I’d hate to try to push it, when I know that I had some
time. I’d feel better if I knew that I was around for the whole
duration of this year, rather than trying to fight through this ankle
all year.  When we get closer to the end, I’m going to have to be ready
to go everyday and there’s no days off.”

Fair enough.  The Braves have lofty goals this season and the 38-year-old Wagner is wise to want as much rest as possible.

Set on adding a lefty, Manuel then phoned Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez, and Kuo jumped at the opportunity to participate in Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic.  He’s plenty deserving with a 1.03 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 12 holds through 25 appearances this season and his addition to the NL squad makes sense from a strategy standpoint.  Both rosters are now set.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.