Madison Bumgarner “almost surely will start Game 4”

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Bruce Bochy hasn’t announced anything official about his Game 4 starter choice, leaving room to change his mind depending on how the Giants fare through three games, but Chris Haft of MLB.com writes that rookie Madison Bumgarner “almost surely will start Game 4.”

Turning to Tim Lincecum on short rest is the other option for Bochy, but Haft seems certain that won’t happen regardless of how the reigning back-to-back Cy Young winner fares in the series opener tomorrow night. Bochy has said only that he’s “penciled” in Bumgarner for the start but may still “call an audible.”

Bumgarner looked terrible while competing for a rotation spot during spring training and then continued to struggle after beginning the season in the minors, but eventually rediscovered the velocity and raw stuff that made him one of baseball’s best pitching prospects coming into the season and posted a 3.00 ERA in 18 starts after joining the Giants in late June.

He had a 1.18 ERA and 34/7 K/BB ratio in his final six regular season starts and tossed six innings of two-run ball in a win over the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS, so the 21-year-old southpaw is definitely up for the challenge. He’ll likely be matched up against Joe Blanton, although manager Charlie Manuel also left open the possibility that he could turn to Roy Halladay on short rest if the Phillies are trailing in the series.

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.