D’Backs find a first baseman, sign Russell Branyan

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From SI.com’s Jon Heyman comes word that the Diamondbacks have reached agreement on a minor league contract with Russell Branyan.

The deal also carries an invitation to spring training, where Branyan will have the opportunity to put a claim on Arizona’s starting first base gig.

Juan Miranda and Brandon Allen had been ticketed for the job, but those two lack experience and proven power potential. Branyan collected 25 home runs between stays with the Mariners and Indians last season and is plenty capable of posting a higher total this year while playing half of his games at the Diamondbacks’ power-friendly Chase Field.

Allen will probably be shipped to Triple-A once camp breaks, unless the Diamondbacks can find a quick trade partner. Miranda is out of minor league options and will likely remain on board as a backup.

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.