Ryan Freel died last December from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after an eight-year major league playing career during which he claimed to have suffered 10 concussions. Believing there to be a link between the suicide and Freel’s multiple incidents of head trauma, Freel’s family donated his brain to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, where many football players and boxers have been tested and studied for CTE.
CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is an incurable brain disease clinically associated with symptoms of irritability, impulsivity, aggression, depression, short-term memory loss and heightened suicidality.
Freel, the center has discovered, was suffering from Stage II CTE at the time of his death.
“It’s a release in that there was a physical reason for what he did,” Clark Vargas, Freel’s stepfather, told Justin Barney of the Florida Times-Union. “On the other side for me, Ryan fell through the cracks. … We’re keeping track of pitch counts, can we keep track of how many guys are hit on the head?”
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.