Pitching-starved Royals have found a gem in Felipe Paulino

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One of the things holding the Royals’ rebuilding effort back despite a steady influx of young talent is their lack of quality starting pitching, as former No. 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar has a 5.39 career ERA at age 28 and 23-year-old Danny Duffy blew out his elbow after showing lots of promise.

Kansas City’s starters rank 27th in ERA this season after ranking 29th last season and 29th in 2010. That makes it tough to contend regardless of how well the young hitting talent fares, but the Royals appear to have snagged at least one high-upside arm for the rotation in right-hander Felipe Paulino.

Paulino always had a big-time fastball and good strikeout rates, but they came along with spotty control, trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark, and lots of health issues for the Astros and then briefly the Rockies. Colorado designated him for assignment in May of last season, eventually trading him to Kansas City for cash considerations, and Paulino stepped into the Royals’ rotation with great results ever since.

He made 20 starts last season and has made four starts this year since missing April with a forearm injury, throwing a total of 150 innings with a 3.66 ERA and 148/55 K/BB ratio. During that time Paulino’s average fastball of 95.2 miles per hour is the third-highest velocity in baseball and he’s improved his control from terrible to merely bad while serving up just 11 homers in 634 plate appearances. And that’s while moving from the NL to the AL.

Stockpiling young pitching prospects only to see a 28-year-old acquired for some petty cash emerge as the team’s best starter wasn’t exactly the Royals’ plan, but right now Paulino looks capable of being a long-term building block for a rotation that desperately needs one.

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.