Justin Morneau vows to be ready for spring training

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Justin Morneau was cleared to resume workouts earlier this week, but the encouraging news doesn’t end there.

At the team’s winter coat drive at Target Field earlier today, Morneau told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he expects to be ready for spring training.

“There’s not a doubt in my mind. I’ll be ready for spring.”

Morneau suffered a concussion on July 7 after taking a knee to the head on a slide into second base and missed the final three months of the regular season and the playoffs as a result. He was batting .345/.437/.618 with 18 homers, 56 RBI and a 1.055 OPS at the time of the injury.

It’s easy to wonder what could have been, but the team’s offense was still pretty darn good without him during the second half of the season. They were second in the American League in runs, hits, doubles, batting average and on-base percentage, third in OPS and fourth in slugging percentage. Still, getting Morneau back at (hopefully) full strength is akin to a big money free agent signing.

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.