Cardinals won’t stretch out Lance Lynn, Kyle McClellan

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OK, yeah, boring headline; this one probably won’t get a lot of clicks. But it rates as a pretty curious decision to me.

New Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Monday that he doesn’t plan to stretch out any of his relievers, a group that includes former starters Lance Lynn, Kyle McClellan and Mitchell Boggs. In means that in the event of a late injury to one of his five starters, he’ll probably be forced to turn to Brandon Dickson at the back of the rotation.

“When you have a younger ‘pen, you don’t want to confuse the issue,” Matheny said. “When you have guys who are still trying to find their role … right now we have everybody exactly where we want to be.”

Right now, yes. And I strongly believe that major league teams typically go overboard in worrying about the worst-case scenario. But the Cardinals’ sixth, seventh and eighth best starters are all in their bullpen. That could come back to bite them later on.

Of course, if Chris Carpenter or someone else were to suffer an oblique strain tomorrow, there would be plenty of time for the Cardinals to adjust. Lynn would be the obvious choice to move back to the rotation in that case. But if Lynn finishes the spring never having thrown more than two innings in an outing and a starter goes down at the beginning of April, it’s going to take a few outings in stretch him out.

As for Matheny’s reasoning, I think he’s worrying about it a bit too much. Lynn didn’t work as a reliever in the minors before the Cards shifted him to the pen last year, and all he did was post a 2.22 ERA and fan 32 in 24 1/3 innings out of the pen. I think the smart play would be to have him start games this spring, just in case.

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.