Mariano Rivera could pass Trevor Hoffman for all-time saves lead this season

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Trevor Hoffman announced his retirement yesterday, calling it quits after an amazing 18-year career that saw the future Hall of Famer rack up an MLB record 601 saves.

To put that staggering total in some context, consider that only one other pitcher in baseball history has even 500 career saves and with Billy Wagner joining Hoffman in retirement only one active pitcher has even 300 career saves.

Unfortunately for Hoffman’s chances of hanging on to the all-time record, the “only one other pitcher” in both scenarios is Mariano Rivera and he’s just 42 saves away from 601.

Rivera is 41 years old, but showed little sign of slowing down last season with a 1.80 ERA and .183 opponents’ batting average, and signed a two-year, $30 million contract with the Yankees last month. In other words, barring an unexpected collapse Rivera is very likely to end up as the all-time saves leader. The bigger question is whether it will happen this season.

Rivera saved “only” 35 games last season, which would leave him just short of Hoffman’s all-time mark, but he had 44 saves in 2009 and has saved 42 or more games in a season six times in 14 years as a full-time closer. Expect him to be closing in on Hoffman down the stretch, which should be a nice bit of added drama for the Yankees in September.

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.