Jason Kipnis expected to return to action Thursday

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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been sidelined since last Friday with a bit of discomfort in the area of his right oblique, but he’s made significant progress in the last couple of days and is expected to return to Cleveland’s starting lineup for Thursday night’s series finale against the White Sox.

The good news comes from beat writer Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, who adds that Kipnis probably won’t get everyday playing time immediately upon returning as part of a precautionary strategy to keep the rookie infielder healthy down the stretch.

Kipnis, 24, has hit .279/.347/.603 with six home runs, 11 RBI and two stolen bases through the first 75 plate appearances of his major league career. He should remain a high quality contributor for many years to come.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to a 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.