Masahiro Tanaka throws 10 fastballs on flat ground, hopes to return to Yankees this season

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Masahiro Tanaka was diagnosed last month with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and that injury pretty much always leads to Tommy John reconstructive surgery, but the right-hander is still holding out hope that rest and rehab will do the trick.

According to beat writer Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, the new Yankees ace threw 10 fastballs on flat ground Wednesday afternoon in Baltimore without experiencing any sort of arm discomfort. “It’s feeling really good,” Tanaka told reporters through an interpreter after the workout. “Really, I didn’t feel anything special compared to just regular tossing. I thought everything went well.”

Tanaka is aiming to return to the major league rotation at some point in mid-to-late September.

And while that seems unlikely, the in-contention Yankees aren’t willing to rule it out quite yet.

Tanaka owns a fantastic 2.51 ERA (153 ERA+) and 135/19 K/BB ratio through his first 129 1/3 big league frames. He signed a record seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees this past winter.

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.