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.

Henderson Alvarez signs with Tigres de Quintana Roo

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Free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez signed a deal with the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League earlier this week, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Friday. The righty wasn’t necessarily too fringey a player to hack it in the big leagues, but there were no MLB takers in attendance during his showcase in Venezuela last month and he clearly felt it best to try his luck elsewhere.

The 27-year-old’s last major league gig came with the Phillies, for whom he delivered a 4.30 ERA, 6.8 BB/9 and 3.7 SO/9 over 14 2/3 innings in 2017. While he’s not too far removed from his first and only All-Star bid in 2014, he was besieged by shoulder issues in 2015 and 2016 and underwent season-ending surgeries as a result.

That added injury risk, coupled with the fact that he hasn’t pitched more than 22 innings in a single season since 2014, may have been too much for major league teams to take on this spring. Assuming he steers clear of further injuries, however, a return to the majors may not be entirely out of the question in years to come.