J.P. Howell clarifies his statement that Yasiel Puig was bullied in the Dodger clubhouse

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Howell spoke to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times about bullying recently, which caused some controversy when he stated that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was bullied in the clubhouse. Shaikin specifically wrote in his article, “Howell said he saw Yasiel Puig bullied in the Dodgers’ clubhouse,” but Howell has clarified that comment with Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

“Not in the clubhouse, never by teammates,” he said. “I was asked if Puig had been bullied and I said yes, but I meant by fans and media and people on the outside that don’t know him. Never in the clubhouse. Are you kidding? People early in the season said our clubhouse wouldn’t have chemistry, and it turned out to be an awesome clubhouse — everybody got along.”

The original comment which got lost in translation inspired many discussions about bullying in sports, particularly with the Richie Incognito incident still fresh in mind. The Dodgers felt compelled to issue a statement:

“Bullying is an issue we take very seriously. We’ve discussed this with Yasiel and he has assured us that he is comfortable with the clubhouse environment as well as his teammates, coaches and support staff. As an organization, we will continue to be proactive in monitoring what goes on in and around our clubhouse.”

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.