Santana Claus returns to Venezuela

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Great story about Johan Santana’s annual trip to his hometown in the remote mountains of Venezuela, where he spreads holiday cheer:

He lives in Florida in the off-season, but late every year, he returns to Tovar, bearing gifts by the truckload. He
organizes the Cy Youngazo, or the Great Cy Young, where he hands out
Christmas presents to children and organizes local soccer and baseball
tournaments . . . During
this year’s event, young boys stood slack-jawed and old men whistled
their appreciation as he walked by. He was continually stopped by
people either asking for autographs or just wanting to shake his hand.

He also watches out for would-be kidnappers. He has a full security detail for him and his family, and the former director of Venezuela’s anti-kidnapping police unit, who now works for Venezuela’s professional baseball league, was on hand too.

My first impulse when I hear about Venezuelan players having their families kidnapped is to ask why any of these guys ever go back.  Then you read something like this piece about Johan Santana’s annual trip home, and you wonder how any of them can stay away.

Oh, and by the way: Santana says his elbow is “100 percent recovered” and he’s ready for spring training.

The Cubs send Kyle Schwarber to the minors

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Kyle Schwarber broke into the bigs in 2015 with a big bat. After missing almost all of the last season with an injury, he reemerged as a postseason hero, posting a .971 OPS in the World Series. As 2017 began he was supposed to be one of the key parts of a potent Cubs offense.

Then the baseball games actually started and he has hit a mere .171/.295/.378. Indeed, he has the lowest batting average among qualified MLB hitters in 2017. Given that he has very little if any defensive value, he has been a significant drag on the Cubs, who are just a single game over .500.

Now this:

The Cubs are also putting Jason Heyward on the disabled list, so the outfield is a bit of a mess these days. Lucky for them, they’re only trailing the Brewers by a game and a half.

The A’s designate Stephen Vogt for assignment

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A surprising move out of Oakland: the Athletics have designated catcher Stephen Vogt for assignment.

Vogt is suffering through a bad season at the plate, hitting .217/.287/.357, so on the basis of pure performance it’s understandable that the A’s may want to part ways with the 32-year-old former All-Star. That said, Vogt is considered to be a leader in the Oakland clubhouse and is one of the last players remaining from the A’s 2013-14 playoff teams.

Catcher Bruce Maxwell has been recalled from Triple-A to take Vogt’s place on the roster. Main catching duties will belong to Josh Phegley.