Reds finish mailing it in, get swept by Pirates

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It’s not that the Reds had nothing to play for this weekend; winning two out of three against the Pirates would have ensured that Tuesday’s rematch in the wild card game would be at home. Instead, they’ll travel to Pittsburgh for Tuesday’s rematch and elimination game after getting swept in the series.

Right from the get-go on Friday, it hardly seemed as though the Reds’ hearts were in it. They lost that one 4-1 when A.J. Burnett threw four more pitches in eight innings than Homer Bailey did in five (99-95). Saturday’s game saw the Pirates hit six homers. The Reds hit one in the entire series. On Sunday, the regulars mostly started for the third straight day, yet all were pulled after two at-bats in the 4-2 loss. The two runs were actually delivered by third-string catcher Corky Miller.

Now the Reds are going to be expected to suddenly turn it on again Tuesday after five straight losses in which they scored a total of eight runs. It will have been eight days since their previous win. As little as momentum seems to matter in baseball, it makes it difficult to get excited about the Reds’ chances. Besides Shin-Soo Choo and maybe Todd Frazier, no regular is swinging the bat very well. In the matchup of Johnny Cueto vs. Francisco Liriano, there figures to be quite a bit more weight on Cueto’s shoulders at the onset.

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.