Reds clear Brandon Phillips to begin rehab assignment

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Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips has been cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment Friday at Triple-A after missing the past five weeks following surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament.

Phillips is right on schedule for what was initially expected to be a six-week recovery process.

He was having a poor season before the injury, hitting .272 with seven homers and a .701 OPS that rates as his lowest mark since joining the Reds in 2006. He also swiped just one base in 86 games after averaging 21 steals per season from 2006-2012, so clearly at age 33 he’s showing major signs of decline.

In his absence the Reds have used Skip Schumaker and most recently Kris Negron at second base.

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.