Twins sign veteran SS Erick Aybar to minor league contract

Twins sign veteran SS Erick Aybar to minor league contract

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — The Minnesota Twins have signed 12-year veteran shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.

The Twins announced the deal on Saturday, when Aybar was expected to report to camp. Aybar made his debut with the Los Angeles Angels in 2006 and was their everyday shortstop for seven seasons. He won a Gold Glove award in 2011 and made the All-Star team in 2014. He played last year for the San Diego Padres, batting .234 with 11 stolen bases in 333 at-bats.

The Twins have plenty of middle infield depth behind second baseman Brian Dozier and shortstop Jorge Polanco with versatile backups Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza, so Aybar will be a long shot to make the team.

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Kevin Siegrist agrees to minor league deal with Pirates

Kevin Siegrist agrees to minor league deal with Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Left-hander Kevin Siegrist agreed to a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates and will report to big league spring training.

The 28-year-old was 1-1 with one save and a 4.81 ERA in 46 games last year for St. Louis and Philadelphia, striking out 43 in 39 1/3 innings.

He has an 18-10 record with 10 saves and a 3.04 ERA in 276 relief appearances over five big league seasons with the Cardinals and Phillies, who claimed him off waivers on Sept. 2.

His deal was announced Saturday.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Ester Ledecka makes history by wining 2nd gold medal of Olympics

Ester Ledecka makes history by wining 2nd gold medal of Olympics

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Ester Ledecka has won the second leg of an unheard-of Olympic double, taking the gold medal in snowboarding’s parallel giant slalom to go with her surprise skiing victory in the Alpine super-G earlier in the games.

The Czech star is the first to win gold medals in both sports. She is top-ranked on the snowboarding circuit but never a threat until now in skiing.

She outraced Selina Joerg of Germany to the line in the final and won by .46 seconds, a much more comfortable margin than the .01-second edge in the super-G race that left her staring at the clock in shock.

Ester Ledecka runs the course during the women's parallel giant slalom.

Ester Ledecka runs the course during the women’s parallel giant slalom.

This time, it was no surprise. Ledecka crossed the line and simply pumped her fist, then offered a long congratulatory hug to Joerg.

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Jimmy Butler leaves Timberwolves game with apparent knee injury

Jimmy Butler leaves Timberwolves game with apparent knee injury

HOUSTON — Minnesota All-Star Jimmy Butler left the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets with an apparent injury to his right knee.

After grabbing a rebound late in the third quarter Friday, Butler pivoted and planted hard on his right foot before collapsing and grabbing his right knee. He was on the floor for at least three minutes before he was carried off the court by two teammates. He appeared to avoid putting weight on his right leg when heading to the locker room.

Jimmy Butler (23) appeared to avoid putting weight on his right leg when heading to the locker room.

Jimmy Butler (23) appeared to avoid putting weight on his right leg when heading to the locker room.

(Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)

Butler leads the Timberwolves with 22.4 points and 1.9 steals per game, adding 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in his first season with Minnesota after being traded from Chicago in the offseason.

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Hometown reliever Chris Martin takes winding road to Rangers

Hometown reliever Chris Martin takes winding road to Rangers

FILE – In this April 8, 2015, file photo, New York Yankees pitcher Chris Martin throws out Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Reyes during the seventh inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York. Martin, now with the Texas Rangers, went to Arlington High School, not far from Globe Life Park. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Texas Rangers reliever Chris Martin won’t need help finding his home ballpark. It is home.

The right-hander went to Arlington High School, not far from Globe Life Park.

”In Arlington, I probably know every street, every back road,” Martin said. ”I can tell you every inch of Arlington.”

Martin, however, took a circuitous journey to get to pitch for his hometown team. He spent the last two years pitching in Japan following his first stint in the majors.

”Going from 6,000 miles away to 30 minutes from home, it’s a blessing,” Martin said. ”I’m really excited about it.”

Martin was selected by Detroit in the 18th round in the 2004 draft out of high school, but opted to go to McLennan Community College. Colorado drafted him in the 21st round after his freshman season in junior college. He decided to go back to school, but tore his right labrum.

He had surgery in 2007 and did not pitch for three years. He worked for UPS loading trucks. He worked for Lowe’s and an appliance company.

”Some not-so-fun jobs,” Martin said. ”I decided my arm was feeling better and I’d take another shot at it.”

He went to a Grand Prairie AirHogs tryout, an independent league club in the Dallas area. It cost $50 to try out, and the 6-foot-8 Martin was signed.

After a year in the American Association, Martin signed with Boston and was traded twice. He went 0-2 with a 6.19 ERA in 40 big league appearances with the New York Yankees and Rockies.

The Yankees released him after the 2015 season and he signed with Hokkaido in Japan, finishing with a 1.12 ERA and 22 saves while holding hitters to a .154 average in two seasons.

Martin gives some credit to former teammate and two-way star Shohei Ohtani to him signing a $4 million, two-year contract in December. Otani is preparing for his anticipated debut with the Los Angeles Angels.

”There were a lot of scouts coming to watch him and I think they stumbled upon me doing well over there,” Martin said. ”He’s going to be really fun to watch. I’m excited to see what he can do over here.”

The 31-year-old Martin believes the time in Japan made him better.

”I don’t think it’s like a drastic change in the type of pitcher I am,” he said. ”I think I just learned some little things over in Japan. I learned how to hold runners, how to field my position, how to throw quality balls. Over there, they are super aggressive. They’re trying not to strike out.”

Rangers manager Jeff Banister compares Martin to former Texas pitcher Chris Young, who is 6-10 and also from the Dallas area.

”When Chris was with the Yankees, he was a very spirited competitor,” Banister said. ”Don’t let the quiet guy fool you because I’ve seen him be a very spirited competitor. He creates a lot of angle being a very tall guy, somewhat Chris Young-like in a sense that he’s got a fastball that he can create some hop at the top of the strike zone and an angle at the bottom of the strike zone.

”He went over to Japan and really kind of earned the next part of his pitching career. … He seems to be a very dedicated, disciplined guy.”

Martin calls it a ”cool story” on going from a teenage prospect, to arm surgery, to delivery boy and out of baseball for three years to signing with the Rangers.

”It’s crazy. It’s awesome, a surreal moment,” he said. ”I can’t wait to get to Globe Life and pitch.”