Craig Kimbrel first in history to fan half his batters faced

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Braves closer Craig Kimbrel struck out three out of the four Pirates he faced Wednesday to become the first pitcher in major league history to fan at least half of the batters he faced.

Kimbrel racked up 116 strikeouts while facing 231 batters. That’s more than four strikeouts for each of the 27 hits he allowed. He struck out more than eight times as many batters as he walked (14), which is perhaps the most stunning stat of all for those of us who saw him as a prospect a few years back. He walked fewer batters in 62 2/3 innings this year than he did in 20 2/3 innings (16) following his arrival to the majors in 2010.

The record Kimbrel set today barely even requires a minimum-inning requirement. Not only is Kimbrel the first to do it in minimum 50 or 60 innings, but he’d be the first to do it with a minimum of six innings. Francisco Rodriguez struck out 13 of the 21 batters he faced after joining the Angels in Sept. 2002. He pitched 5 2/3 innings that month before becoming a postseason hero. No one else has done it over as few as three innings.

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.