From LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune comes word that Tsuyoshi Nishioka has been promoted to Triple-A Rochester to continue his minor league rehab assignment.
Nishioka went 4-for-12 with a stolen base in four games this past week at High-A Fort Myers. He’s expected to play three games for Rochester before returning to the Twins’ starting lineup in the middle of next week. Possibly as early as Wednesday.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed Saturday to John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Nishioka is going to play shortstop upon returning with Alexi Casilla sliding over to second base. Nishioka played shortstop successfully while in Japan and should have no trouble picking it back up.
The 26-year-old from Osaka has made just 26 major league plate appearances this year as a rookie. He’s been on the disabled list since the second week of the regular season with a fractured left fibula.
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.