M’s Japanese owner won’t watch team play live in Japan

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There are a number of team owners across the pro sports landscape who would rather not be in the spotlight. Which is fine, and maybe even healthy.

But this feels like a different kind of thing.

According to Art Thiel of the Everett Herald, Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, an early innovator at Nintendo and a native of Japan, has never seen his team play live and is not going to make the two-hour trek from his home later this week to see them open the MLB regular season against the A’s in Tokyo.

The reason given? None. There is no reason.

“Quite frankly, a man of his age and stature doesn’t have to explain why he’s not here,” said M’s CEO Howard Lincoln. “He’ll be watching on TV. Given all the years he’s been involved with the Mariners, he’s really looking forward to see the team play. He’s very excited.”

Yamauchi is 84 years old, so health may be a factor. But he has owned the team since 1992 and, as Theil writes, “the Japanese are big on symbolism.” We’re guessing postseason-starved Seattleites are too.

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.