Josh Johnson drawing serious interest from Royals

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The Royals had a cool 3.45 team ERA in 2013 that ranked sixth in the majors, but they still missed the playoffs and Ervin Santana is expected to leave as a free agent this offseason. So, yet again, Kansas City’s front office is on a search for starting pitching.

ESPN’s Buster Olney hears that the Royals “want to work something out” with free agent right-hander Josh Johnson, who had a miserable 6.20 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in 16 starts with the Blue Jays this past summer and underwent elbow surgery in October.

The appeal is that Johnson was among the best starters in MLB between 2009-2012 and can probably be had on a low-risk one-year deal. Johnson, who isn’t yet 30 years old, registered a superb 3.15 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 in eight seasons with the Marlins before getting shipped north as part of a 12-player November 2012 trade. He owns a 3.40 career ERA and 1.27 career WHIP in 998 total big league frames.

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.