Joe Nathan’s comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery appears to be going well, as the Twins closer threw off a mound outdoors today for the first time since missing all of last season and pitching coach Rick Anderson called the session “outstanding.”
Nathan arrived at spring training ahead of schedule and was reportedly clocked in the high-80s right away, and according to Anderson he was throwing “smooth” and “easy” today.
He still has some hurdles to get over and Nathan averaged 93.6 miles per hour with his fastball in 2009, but the early results are very encouraging for a Twins team that desperately needs him to return at something resembling his old self to stabilize a bullpen that lost more than half of its innings from last year to free agency.
Prior to the injury Nathan saved 246 games with a 1.87 ERA in six seasons as the Twins’ closer, narrowly besting Mariano Rivera for the most saves and lowest ERA in baseball during that time.
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.