When Jason Heyward’s jaw was fractured in two places as the result of being hit by a pitch from Mets left-hander Jon Niese on August 21, it was assumed that he would miss the rest of the regular season, but Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that he has been activated from the disabled list and will bat leadoff and play center field this afternoon against the Cubs.
Heyward required surgery to address the fractures, but his rehab went smoothly and he progressed to facing live pitching in recent days. He’s expected to wear a custom helmet fitted with a plastic guard attached to protect his jaw, but getting some at-bats down the stretch will be a big plus, as he’ll be able to get comfortable and shake the rust before the postseason begins.
Heyward, 24, is batting .253/.347/.423 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI over 95 games this season. He has a .414 on-base percentage and .994 OPS in 22 games out of the leadoff spot.
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.