Felix Hernandez’s next start delayed by back issues

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Felix Hernandez won’t pitch again until next Wednesday after leaving Monday’s game with what was called a lower back cramp, MLB.com reports.

“He feels good and wants to start on Sunday, but we’re going to be cautious with him,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We want him to get some flat ground work, get another bullpen in. He understands. It’s really not going to affect how many starts he gets.”

Hernandez’s slim Cy Young chances have already died after four straight losses, including one Aug. 28 against the Rangers that ranks as one of the two or three worst starts of his career (9 R, 8 ER in 3 IP). His ERA has jumped from a American League-leading 2.44 to 3.01.

The Mariners are going with a six-man rotation this month, so they won’t need a replacement for Hernandez on Sunday.

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.