Shoulder stiffness leads to Neftali Feliz’s early exit

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Neftali Feliz, who is making the switch from the closer’s role to the rotation this spring, came out of his start Tuesday against the Cubs after three innings due to right shoulder stiffness.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has some details:

Feliz had pitched three scoreless innings on 49 pitches against the Cubs and was scheduled to go four innings or about 65 pitches. His fastball was at 90-92 mph in the first inning when he relied on the sinker, but he was more regularly at 95 mph later in the outing and topped out at 97.

Feliz also worked as a starter for part of last spring before shifting back to the closer’s role for Texas. He went on to struggle in the first half, during which he also missed a couple of weeks with shoulder inflammation, but he improved as the year went on.

It will be interesting to see what Texas does with Feliz now seemingly likely to start the year on the DL. Alexi Ogando was expected to be in the rotation before the Yu Darvish signing, and he’s obviously deserving of the spot after his strong performance last year. But if Feliz is only going to miss a couple of weeks, it’d probably make more sense to leave Ogando in the pen and let Scott Feldman take the couple of spot starts next month.

And as for Feliz, this isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. The Rangers wanted to keep him under 150 innings this year anyway, so they’ll be extra cautious. If he doesn’t start a game for the team until May, well, that just makes it more likely that he’ll be a factor into September and, hopefully, the postseason.

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.