Twins sign former top prospect Jeff Clement to minor league deal

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Once upon a time Jeff Clement was a top prospect in the Mariners’ farm system, but the No. 3 overall pick in the 2005 draft has spent most of the past six seasons at Triple-A and the 29-year-old catcher/first baseman has signed a minor-league contract with the Twins.

Clement got just 24 plate appearances for the Pirates this year and has a grand total of 421 plate appearances as a big leaguer, hitting .218 with 14 homers and a .648 OPS. And his bat was supposed to be Clement’s strength, as the Mariners and Pirates both determined that he wasn’t good enough defensively to catch regularly.

Clement has consistently fared well at Triple-A, batting .280 with an .852 OPS in 535 total games there and posting similar numbers in 2012, but for a 29-year-old with limited defensive value that’s certainly not particularly impressive production. He’ll compete for a spot on Minnesota’s bench during spring training, but figures to begin the season in Rochester.

Miguel Sano gained weight this offseason

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Not all players coming in to spring training are in The Best Shapes of Their Lives. Some have put on a few pounds, such as Miguel Sano, notes Twins GM Thad Levine:

Sano has been given medical clearance to engage in all baseball workouts with his teammates, his surgically reinforced left shin now completely healed, though the Twins intend to lighten his schedule to prevent any new injuries.

They’d like to lighten something else, too: His “generous carriage,” as General Manager Thad Levine delicately put it last week. Sano’s conditioning understandably lags, after a winter largely spent incapacitated by the surgery.

Sano’s conditioning has often been a topic of conversation among the members of the Minnesota press corps, though not always in good faith. For example, last year when Sano injured his shin by fouling a ball off of it, one member of the The Fourth Estate found a way to make a column out of blaming the freak injury on Sano’s conditioning. At least in this instance his colleague is correctly noting that the poor conditioning is a result of the injury and not the cause.

Still, it’s just another issue facing Sano this spring. He’s out of shape, coming off of an injury, and — not that he’s due any sympathy for it — he’s facing a likely suspension arising out of the allegations of sexual assault leveled against him late last year.

So this spring we’ll be seeing more of Sano, it seems. At least until that time we’ll be seeing less of him.