Clint Hurdle has benched Andrew McCutchen for tonight’s game after the Pirates center fielder failed to run to first base yesterday when the catcher dropped a third strike, according to Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Hurdle taking that stance isn’t surprising–Dunlap notes that he did the same thing to Ronny Cedeno last month–but it’s definitely coming at an interesting time given reports that the Pirates and McCutchen have been making progress on a long-term contract extension that would likely be worth more than $50 million.
As for the actual play in question, having watched the replay it definitely didn’t look like McCutchen would have been safe had he run it out, but that’s the type of situation where nothing is lost by displaying a little hustle and forcing the catcher to simply make a throw to first base can occasionally lead to an error.
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.