Dayton Moore isn't the only one who likes Yuniesky Betancourt

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Dick Kaegel is a pretty optimistic guy — he’s predicting the Royals will take the AL Central with 88 wins — but that might not be the craziest thing he wrote in his “10 questions” piece for MLB.com:

Which player will be the biggest surprise of the 2010 season?


I’m picking Betancourt, who’ll find new life under the guidance of
coaches Eddie Rodriguez and Dave Owen. The shortstop seems to be
catching on to nuances of the game that eluded him in his rapid rise to
the Majors after leaving Cuba.

Apparently those nuances don’t include taking pitches or fielding the baseball with any degree of competence. Betancourt is a near-lock to make contact (88.3% for his career),
but that doesn’t make the results any less frustrating. The best
surprise for Royals fans would be if Mike Aviles works his way back
from Tommy John surgery to take the starting shortstop job back from this
sort of mediocrity.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.

Manny Machado teaches us to never give up

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The Rays beat the Orioles last night, but the play of the game belonged to an Oriole defender.

Evan Longoria was batting and he chopped a ball foul down the third base line. At least it started out foul. As we all know, however, it doesn’t matter where the ball starts, it matters where it is when it crosses the bag.

Manny Machado knows this and didn’t give up on the ball despite it starting several feet in foul territory. He watched it come back, stayed with it and threw out Longoria who, unlike Machado, did give up on it, assuming he’d merely get a strike and another hack. Watch:

Longoria would get Machado back, however, fielding a ball Machado smoked to third base in the ninth inning, recording the second to last out of the game.