Tony Gwynn had facial nerve removed in 14-hour surgery for cancerous tumor

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Tony Gwynn underwent a 14-hour surgery yesterday to remove a malignant tumor from his cheek, with Tom Friend of ESPN.com reporting that the Hall of Famer had a facial nerve taken out and replaced with a nerve from his shoulder.

Gwynn’s wife, Alicia Gwynn, told Friend that the surgery lasted until 1:00 a.m. and was deemed a success, as the cancerous tumor was completely removed.

Gwynn, who attributes the growth to his prior use of smokeless tobacco, underwent a somewhat similar procedure in 2010 that left him unable to smile for several months. Gwynn’s wife is optimistic that his recovery will be much easier this time around, noting that “his face looks good” already.

Friend writes that had the “complex” surgery not gone well yesterday Gwynn’s “face could’ve been partially paralyzed or slightly disfigured.” For now there’s hope that Gwynn will be feeling good enough to resume coaching at San Diego State next month, hopefully while displaying the same smile that baseball fans came to love during his 20-year career.

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.