Astros sign reliever Chad Qualls to a two-year contract

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One day after inking right-handed starter Scott Feldman to a three-year, $30 million contract, the Astros have signed veteran reliever Chad Qualls to a two-year deal with a club option for 2016. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that Qualls will make $6 million guaranteed in the deal while the option is worth $3.5 million.

Qualls, 35, is coming off a solid season with the Marlins in which he posted a 2.61 ERA and 49/19 K/BB ratio over 62 innings, mostly in a set-up capacity. He posted his highest strikeout rate since 2010 while his 63.3 percent ground ball rate was the highest of his 10-year career. Though let’s be honest, he made more news for doing this than anything he did on the mound.

Qualls was originally drafted by the Astros in 2000 and spent his first four major league seasons with the club. He’s a curious fit for a team which isn’t anywhere close to contention, but the club’s recent activity should keep the MLBPA off their backs and Qualls might even get a chance to close games given how unsettled they are in their bullpen.

UPDATE: According to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said that Qualls isn’t confirmed to be the closer yet and that the club could still add another reliever.

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.