After serving as the designated hitter for the past 16 games, Albert Pujols is back at first base for tonight’s game against the Royals. Pujols hasn’t started at first base since he injured his right calf while running the bases on August 22, but he’s feeling much better now.
While the Angels have played things safe with their $240 million investment over the past three weeks, the calf hasn’t had a huge impact on Pujols’ production. The 32-year-old is hitting .303/.343/.515 with two homers, eight doubles, 10 RBI and an .858 OPS in 70 plate appearances since returning to the lineup on August 26. He is batting .286/.344/.531 with 30 homers, 96 RBI and an .875 OPS on the year.
With Pujols back at first base tonight, the struggling Mark Trumbo will slide into the DH spot while Vernon Wells will start in left field. The Angels open play tonight at 78-66 on the year, 7 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the American League West and 3 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race.
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.