Over the off-season, the Twins announced they were moving Joe Mauer from behind the plate to first base, a decision meant to alleviate the day-to-day physical stress their $184 million man had gone through, particularly recently. Mauer suffered a concussion last season from a foul tip and has also had back problems from time to time.
Mauer played at first base for the first time during spring training. Per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, Mauer didn’t experience any issues and felt comfortable out there.
“It felt a little different,” Mauer said. “I’ve never actually played first base here at Spring Training, so I was a little worried about seeing the ball off the bat. It’s a little bright out there, so it was nice I was able to get a ball in the first inning and make a play.”
Mauer also went 1-for-2 with an RBI to top off his afternoon. Mauer, 30, has played in 115 or more games just once in the last three years, so if the Twins can get him to play close to a full season, they should be able to recapture any value lost from the position switch.
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.