Torii Hunter visits the ballpark he helped build

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When I read the intro to this story about Torii Hunter’s return to Minnesota in today’s L.A. Times, I was prepared to scoff at yet another strange Torii Hunter statement: Target Field is “The House That Torii Built.”  Ha! Put this alongside “Dominicans are imposters” and “Kirby Puckett moved off centerfield for me.” The usual Hunter weirdness.

But (a) Hunter didn’t say that Target Field was “The House that Hunter Built,” the writer came up with that construction; and (b) even if he did say it, he wouldn’t be all wrong.

Unless you’re a Twins guy like Gleeman it’s easy to forget now how dire the ballclub’s straits were in the late 90s and early oughts. The threat of contraction seemed very real at the time. And even if you didn’t think it would happen, it certainly felt like Twins baseball was on life support in many important ways.

As the article notes, however, a crop of young players — not the least of which was Torii Hunter — helped revitalize the team and restore winning baseball to the Twin Cities. That, in turn, helped generate excitement which, in turn, led to the construction of what by all accounts is a wonderful ballpark.

Torii Hunter says a lot of crazy stuff. He wouldn’t be wrong, however, if he said that he had a hell of a lot to do with the construction of Target Field.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to 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.