Rangers setup man Frank Francisco likely out for playoffs

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Frank Francisco initially expressed some optimism that he could return from a strained rib cage to pitch at some point in the playoffs, but Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that the Rangers have all but ruled out the setup man until 2011.

Francisco threw a 20-pitch bullpen session yesterday and reported no problems, but he’s been sidelined since late August and throwing him right back into the fire in a World Series game is unlikely even if he continues to avoid setbacks.

Francisco’s injury played a part in the Rangers’ bullpen implosion in Game 1 of the ALCS, because had he been healthy there’s a pretty good chance manager Ron Washington would have simply turned to Francisco to work the eighth inning instead of playing musical relievers.

After losing ninth-inning duties to Neftali Feliz early on, Francisco rebounded to post a 2.84 ERA, .220 opponents’ batting average, and 57/16 K/BB ratio in 50.2 innings prior to landing on the disabled list. He pitched the eighth inning in 34 of his 56 appearances overall.

Video: Gift Ngoepe singles in his first major league at-bat

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Pirates infielder Gift Ngoepe, just called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, singled in his first major league at-bat on Wednesday evening against Cubs starter Jon Lester. It was a well-struck ground ball up the middle in the bottom of the fourth inning. Unfortunately for him, the Pirates could not bring him around to score.

Ngoepe, who was pinch-hitting, stayed in the game to play second base.

Shelby Miller getting third opinion on elbow from Dr. James Andrews

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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Monday due to inflammation in his right elbow. He had a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Tuesday and is currently awaiting a third opinion from Dr. James Andrews, Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports reports. That he’s getting a third opinion seems to imply that Miller’s elbow issue is rather serious.

Miller, 26, hasn’t been able to catch a break since joining the Diamondbacks. Last year’s nightmarish season included a finger injury stemming from mechanical woes and a brief demotion to the minor leagues. In 20 starts in the majors last year, Miller posted an ugly 6.15 ERA. This year, his ERA is a mediocre 4.09 over four starts.

The Diamondbacks called up Zack Godley to take Miller’s spot in the rotation. There was some speculation that it would be Archie Bradley instead, but he’s been working out of the bullpen.