Chase Utley heading to Florida, on track for late May return

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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly has some exciting news for those anxiously awaiting the return of Phillies second baseman Chase Utley.

According to Salisbury’s sources, Utley has been deemed “ready to intensify his workouts” and will head to the Phillies’ spring training complex in Clearwater, Florida on Friday to begin playing in extended spring training games.

Once the Phillies have seen enough from Utley in the exhibition tilts, they will have him meet up with the organization’s Florida State League affiliate for true live action games. Then he’ll move on through the Phils’ minor league system before eventually meeting up with the big league club.

If all goes according to plan, Utley should be back in the majors by the end of this month.

The All-Star second baseman has been sidelined since spring training with patellar tendinitis.

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.