Joe Mauer handles first day at first base with relative ease

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Over the off-season, the Twins announced they were moving Joe Mauer from behind the plate to first base, a decision meant to alleviate the day-to-day physical stress their $184 million man had gone through, particularly recently. Mauer suffered a concussion last season from a foul tip and has also had back problems from time to time.

Mauer played at first base for the first time during spring training. Per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, Mauer didn’t experience any issues and felt comfortable out there.

“It felt a little different,” Mauer said. “I’ve never actually played first base here at Spring Training, so I was a little worried about seeing the ball off the bat. It’s a little bright out there, so it was nice I was able to get a ball in the first inning and make a play.”

Mauer also went 1-for-2 with an RBI to top off his afternoon. Mauer, 30, has played in 115 or more games just once in the last three years, so if the Twins can get him to play close to a full season, they should be able to recapture any value lost from the position switch.

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.