Jon Niese hit in side by comebacker; X-rays come back negative

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Mets left-hander Jon Niese was forced to leave his start against the Rangers in the first inning last night after he was hit in the left side by a comebacker off the bat of Alex Rios. Fortunately, he managed to avoid a serious injury.

According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, X-rays on Niese’s side came back negative and he was diagnosed with a bruise. The southpaw actually wanted to stay in the game, but Mets trainer Ray Ramirez was concerned about the possibility of a fractured rib and a punctured lung. Niese had a previous incident back in 2009 where he suffered a complete tear of his hamstring after he was left in to throw a warm-up pitch, so playing it safe ultimately won out here.

Niese has been a bright spot for the disappointing Mets this season, putting up a 2.96 ERA and 74/28 K/BB ratio in 103 1/3 innings. He hasn’t allowed more than earned runs in any of his 17 starts.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to a 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.