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Gil Santos prepared to answer the call for Patriots

GIL SANTOS 36th season

It might slip the mind in these sizzling days of early summer, but the NFL season isn’t so far away. The Patriots kick off their preseason schedule roughly six weeks from now, Aug. 9 against the Saints.

But even before the first play, the Patriots already will be affiliated with one impressive comeback.

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According to industry sources, Gil Santos is expected to be behind the microphone for his 36th season as the radio play-by-play voice of the Patriots.

His return is an extraordinary development given his health problems over the winter. Santos, 72, suffered from a case of pneumonia so severe that he temporarily lost feeling in his extremities, had to be put into a medically induced coma, and required extensive physical rehabilitation.

While it’s yet to be determined whether Santos will work a full schedule - traveling might prove too rigorous - the desire he expressed to his bosses at CBS Radio and 98.5 The Sports Hub to call the games for at least one more season will be fulfilled.

The next question is whether Santos’s longtime partner will return as well.

Santos and Patriots legend Gino Cappelletti have been paired on broadcasts for 28 years, including the last 21. It was considered all but a formality that Cappelletti would retire after last season, with Sports Hub midday cohost Scott Zolak - a revelation in an innovative sideline-based role last season - moving into the booth alongside Santos.

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According to industry sources, Cappelletti has told acquaintances that he’s not coming back, but he has not yet given CBS Radio, which owns Patriots flagship station The Sports Hub, official word one way or the other.

Mark Hannon, CBS Radio Boston’s senior vice president and market manager, has left the decision about whether to return in Santos and Cappelletti’s hands each year, an uncommonly respectful approach considering the often cutthroat nature of the radio business.

Had Hannon and Mike Thomas, the vice president of programming, been less patient and decided they wanted their broadcast team in place a few weeks ago, it’s possible that neither Santos nor Cappelletti would be part of it.

But Santos, having made such remarkable progress, is coming back.

Perhaps Cappelletti will, too. His decision must come soon, though, because the new season is already in sight.

Farm report

This newspaper has long published a Red Sox minor league notebook, but it wasn’t that many years ago that tracking an organization’s prospects was more or less considered the niche domain of diehards and Baseball America devotees.

But the enjoyment of following a player’s progress up the ladder has become more mainstream, as evidenced in part by the live airing of the amateur draft on the MLB Network the past couple of years.

In that vein, it should be noted that WEEI has recently made a small but worthwhile move. On Sundays from 8:30-9 a.m., Alex Speier hosts “Down on the Farm,’’ a look at the Red Sox farm system.

It’s a topic on which Speier, who also hosts a podcast on the subject, is well-established as an informed and insightful source, and the show is worth a listen.

Sneak peek

For the many who e-mailed to say how much you enjoyed NBA TV’s recent documentary “The Dream Team’’ on the transcendent 1992 US Olympic men’s basketball team, a recommendation: Check out Jack McCallum’s website (jackmccallum.net), where the superb longtime Sports Illustrated basketball writer has found an innovative way of promoting his upcoming book on the same subject. In advance of the July 10 release of “Dream Team,’’ McCallum has been posting a series he calls “Behind the Interviews,’’ which are ostensibly vignettes of his conversations with the 12 players on the team. But they are so gracefully written that they could stand as feature stories or chapters in their own right, and the free samples leave the reader with tremendous anticipation of the book. That, of course, is the purpose, but it’s impressive to see how well McCallum executes it.

Finals ratings are high

All indications are that ABC will have an enormous overnight rating for Game 5 of the NBA Finals when the numbers become available Friday morning. Nielsen ratings for Games 1 and 2 of the Heat-Thunder series were up significantly from the respective games in the Mavericks-Heat matchup a year ago, and Game 4 Tuesday featured the highest preliminary rating for a Finals game since 2004, a 12.4. As for Game 3, it earned a 10.4 overnight, down 6 percent from last year, but there was a good reason: another compelling sporting event in prime time. The final round of the US Open Sunday on NBC earned a 6.6 overnight . . . After less than two years at Comcast SportsNet New England, Nicole Zaloumis is leaving for a high-profile gig as an anchor on the NFL Network. Zaloumis, whose final day at the regional network is Saturday, debuted at CSNNE in January 2011. She previously worked at the Big Ten Network and Fox Sports Northwest.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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