Chris Perez throws 20 pitches of live batting practice

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When Indians closer Chris Perez suffered a strained left oblique on February 24 — during his first bullpen session of the spring — the general belief was that he would be inactive at the beginning of the regular season. But Perez has defied the odds, and should be ready for a save opportunity on Opening Day.

According to beat writer Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, Perez tossed 20 pitches of live batting practice Wednesday afternoon in Indians camp, reporting no lingering pain or discomfort on the left side of his body. If he wakes up feeling normal on Thursday morning, the right-hander could be cleared to make his Cactus League debut on Friday or Saturday.

As a reliever, he only needs a handful of spring innings to get properly tuned up for regular-season action.

Perez, 26, registered a cool 3.32 ERA and 1.21 WHIP across 59 2/3 innings last year for Cleveland, collecting 36 saves in 40 opportunities. He carries a 3.13 career ERA, a 1.19 career WHIP and an 8.5 K/9.

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.