Michael Saunders departs game after slamming into wall, diagnosed with shoulder sprain

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Michael Saunders crashed almost head-on into the outfield wall on Wednesday night at Safeco Field while running down a Jose Altuve warning-track fly. He laid on the ground for several minutes before eventually walking off the field with his right arm hanging limply at his side. It looked like a right shoulder injury — one that might be pretty serious.

Saunders entered Wednesday’s game against the Astros hitting .286/.333/.500 with one home run, five RBI and three stolen bases through 34 plate appearances. The injury happened in the top of the first inning, so he neither damaged nor improved that stat line.

Saunders showed major signs of promise with the Mariners in 2012, tallying 19 home runs, 21 stolen bases and 57 RBI in 139 games. It’s going to really hurt if he’s out for a significant period of time.

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UPDATE, 11:10 PM ET: Larry Stone of the Seattle Times reports that Saunders has been diagnosed with a right shoulder sprain. He will be examined by the Mariners’ team physician on Thursday.

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.