Neftali Feliz happy to be moving into the Rangers’ rotation

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By signing Joe Nathan to a two-year, $14.5 million contract the Rangers showed that they’re committed to moving Neftali Feliz into the rotation and the 23-year-old closer issued a statement saying he’s on board with the switch:

Jon Daniels and Ron Washington called me a couple of days ago and told me about the team’s decision for me to be a starting pitcher next season. I was a starter for my whole career before I came to the major leagues. I am happy to know the team’s decision this early, and I have plenty of time to get ready. I have already started running. I have time to work on my changeup and all my pitches. I know I have to work hard to be ready to help my team as a starter so we can get back to the playoffs.

Communicating their intentions ahead of time seems like an important thing after the Rangers waffled on their preference for his role last spring training and Feliz in turn was also unsure. He worked as a starter early in camp and then shifted back to the bullpen, with Alexi Ogando instead emerging as the bullpen-to-rotation success story of 2011.

Feliz has had more success at a younger age than just about any closer in baseball history, but as he said in the statement he came up through the minor leagues as a top-rated starter prospect and it always makes sense to find out if a young pitcher can thrive in a 200-inning role before putting him in a 70-inning role for life.

If he establishes himself as a No. 1 or No. 2 starter and Nathan stays healthy at closer the Rangers will have essentially replaced C.J. Wilson for $7 million per season. And after moving Wilson and Ogando into the rotation during the past two seasons Texas deserves a lot of credit for thinking outside the box with starting pitching.

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.