Cardinals believe Michael Wacha will pitch again this season

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Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha has been cleared to begin a throwing program after sitting out the past six weeks with a stress reaction in his shoulder.

No official timetable has been established for Wacha’s return, but general manager John Mozeliak gave a straightforward “yes” answer to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch when asked if the Cardinals expect the 23-year-old to pitch again this season.

For now the plan is for Wacha to throw for a couple weeks and then be reevaluated to see how his shoulder feels, which seems to indicate early September would be the earliest he might return to the majors. Before being shut down Wacha built on his impressive rookie campaign by posting nearly identical numbers as a sophomore, including a 2.79 ERA and 83/26 K/BB ratio in 90 innings spread over 15 starts.

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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.