Phillies hurler Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to begin rehab assignment on Thursday

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The Phillies signed Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to a three-year, $12 million contract last August. His time with the team hasn’t gone according to plan. Due to the right-hander’s struggles defecting from Cuba, he hadn’t played competitive baseball for a long time when he showed up to Clearwater, Florida for spring training. What the Phillies saw was a pitcher far different than the guy they had scouted over the prior year, and Gonzalez ended up needing time on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

Delaware Online’s Chris Branch reports that Gonzalez is ready to head out on a rehab assignment after some very positive reports came back to the Phillies on his progress. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said Gonzalez was topping out at 95 MPH on his fastball, much better than the high-80’s fastball Gonzalez was throwing in spring training.

Gonzalez will begin his rehab assignment on Thursday and get the ball rolling on his professional career. It will still be a while before the Phillies could reasonably utilize him, but they’re desperate to fix up the bullpen — their 4.68 bullpen ERA currently ranks as the fourth-worst in baseball.

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.