Is it time to panic in Detroit? Maybe not about the whole team — the Royals are hot and the Tigers are not and those things go back and forth all year — but Justin Verlander is definitely giving Tigers fans cause for concern.
Verlander was tagged for seven runs in six innings by the Royals. He allowed only one hit over the first three innings, but as has become custom for the former MVP, things blew up in the middle innings. Here it was the fifth, where he have up four runs on six hits. And it could’ve been worse but for Billy Butler being thrown out at home to end the inning. Verlander gave up three more runs in the sixth. His earned run totals over his past seven starts: 7, 7, 5, 3, 6, 5, 5.
As of now, Verlander’s ERA — 4.98 — is 91st among 99 qualifiers in the majors this year. While, according to the eye-test anyway, Verlander looks normal, something is definitely not right, be it mechanical, physical or mental.
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.