Phillies reliever Scott Mathieson gets closing gig in Japan

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Longtime Phillies prospect Scott Mathieson certainly wasn’t going to get any saves in Philadelphia next year after the team signed Jonathan Papelbon, and the Phillies released him Tuesday so that he could join the Yomiuri Giants of Japan as their new closer.

Mathieson debuted with the Phillies way back in 2006, but he hurt his elbow the next season, missed all of 2008 following Tommy John surgery and had made only cameo appearances in the majors since. He had a 3.12 ERA and a 166/74 K/BB ratio in 146 2/3 innings in Triple-A the last two seasons, but he had pitched just 6 2/3 innings in the majors (giving up two earned runs) during that span.

Unfortunately, while Mathieson still has the nice fastball, his command is shaky and he lacks an exceptional second pitch. He still might have been a useful No. 3 or No. 4 right-hander in a major league pen, but he wasn’t going to make more than the minimum anytime soon. In Japan, he’ll earn $2 million per year, according to the Toronto Sun’s Bob Elliott.

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.