Kevin Youkilis ramps up his rehab

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Kevin Youkilis took some steps toward returning to the Red Sox over the weekend. He threw some on Friday and yesterday ramped things up by swinging the bat and taking grounders.  He’ll need some rehab games in the minors before coming back, but looks to be on the road back to Boston.

Which will be fun if Will Middlebrooks keeps hitting (he’s at .310/.356/.714 in ten games). In a tale as old as time, the fresh face has made fans fall in love with him after a nice start, allowing them to use him as a metaphor for the cleansing of old rot and all of that.

And yes, the Sox have made it clear that Youkilis gets his old job back when he returns. But in a city where people freak the hell out over a ballplayer playing golf, you can bet that someone will find a way to make giving a three-time All-Star his job back following an injury controversial.  Which should be fun.

Imagining Theo Epstein in politics

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“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Or: “When Theo Epstein won World Series championships with the two most championship-starved franchises in baseball history, he got bored, and decided to run for the Senate or something.”

That latter bit is the premise of a Politico piece speculating that the Cubs president could go into politics one day. The story features an interview with former Obama chief strategist David Axlerod, who thinks Theo has what it takes. Mostly what he has is fame, popularity, good looks and money. No idea what his positions on issue are, but that other stuff goes a long way in politics these days.

Bonus: given what we just elected last fall, a guy who once had a little temper tantrum and dressed up in a gorilla suit is just as viable a candidate as anyone.

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.