Homefield advantage and drawn-out NLDS schedule would be huge for the Phillies

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Philadelphia has edged past Atlanta atop the NL East, which means the Phillies also currently have the record in the league. Homefield advantage is always nice, of course, but as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com notes the ability to choose the seven-day or eight-day schedule for the NLDS could be even more beneficial to the Phillies.
By choosing the eight-day NLDS that includes three off days around just five games the Phillies would be able to rely exclusively on their amazing trio of Roy Halladay (2.36 ERA), Roy Oswalt (3.09), and Cole Hamels (3.06) without any starts being made on short rest.
By comparison the seven-day NLDS would force them to either give Joe Blanton and his 5.16 ERA a start or use the Game 1 starter (presumably Halladay) on short rest for Game 4. And if they were to choose Blanton, then Halladay would be lined up to start Game 5 on extra rest because of the extra day off thrown in between.
In any scenario the Phillies’ exceptional Big Three gives them a huge edge throughout the playoffs and capturing homefield advantage is crucial given their 47-28 record in Philadelphia, but the right to also choose their schedule would make things even tougher on their first-round opponents.

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.