Back from shoulder surgery, Sergio Santos hopes to regain Blue Jays’ closer job

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The Blue Jays were largely praised when they acquired Sergio Santos from the White Sox last winter, but his first season with Toronto was a bust, as he made just six appearances due to a nagging shoulder injury which eventually required surgery. Casey Janssen stepped up as the Blue Jays’ closer in his absence by saving 22 games in 25 chances while posting a 2.54 ERA, but Santos tells Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com that he’s ready to turn the page on 2012 and reclaim the closer job.

“Casey did an unbelievable job, but at the same time, I would love to be the closer,” said Santos, who is reporting to camp in early February. “That’s the role I relish. I would love to be able to go in and just compete for the job. If we go in and we compete and he beats me in the spring, I have no problem with being a seventh- or eighth-inning guy — whatever they need me to be.

“But just a chance to compete will be great, and if we’re both healthy and throwing well, with Darren coming back, our bullpen is going to be just fine.”

At the very least, the Blue Jays have makings of a potent late-inning combo. Janssen figures to have the edge over Santos going into spring training, but it’s worth noting that he’s coming off November surgery to relieve discomfort in the AC joint of his right shoulder.

Santos was solid in the closer role for the White Sox in 2011, posting a 3.55 ERA, 30 saves and a 92/29 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings. The 29-year-old right-hander is owed $6.5 million over the next two seasons while his contract includes team-friendly club options from 2015-2017.

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.