Mets aim for Johan Santana to make Grapefruit League debut next week

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Johan Santana’s availability for the start of the season is in doubt, but he’s getting closer to making his spring debut.

ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports that the Mets are aiming for Santana to make his first start in a week, likely next Thursday against the Tigers. This means he would only get three starts to prepare himself for the start of the regular season, but Mets manager Terry Collins is more focused on the long-term than having him ready for Opening Day against the Padres.

“We’re not worried about April 1,” Collins said. “We’re worried about 30 starts.”

Santana has been trying to build arm strength over the past few weeks after taking it easy during the offseason. The veteran left-hander has thrown two light bullpens in recent days and will need to throw another before progressing to live batting practice. Assuming all goes well, he’ll then test himself in game action.

Rubin speculates that Santana may make his final two starts of the spring in minor league games so that the Mets could backdate him if he needs to begin the season on the disabled list. Jeremy Hefner would likely serve as a placeholder in the rotation in that case.

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.