Behind another strong start from Charlie Morton and a three-run home run from Neil Walker, the Pirates defeated the Brewers 5-2 at Miller Park this afternoon. The Cardinals lost to the Reds earlier in the day, which means that the Pirates now have a one-game lead in the National League Central.
Morton allowed two runs – one earned — over seven innings in the victory, striking out six and walking two. The 29-year-old hasn’t received much attention, but he has been very effective since returning from Tommy John surgery in June, posting a 3.00 ERA and 63/23 K/BB ratio in 90 innings over 15 starts. He has thrown at least seven innings in three out of his last four outings.
With today’s win, the Pirates now sit at 80-57 on the season. They only need two more wins for their first winning season since 1992. While that will be an important benchmark for the franchise, they have bigger goals in mind at this point.
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.