Stephen Strasburg shines in fifth minor league rehab start

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Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg took a big step in the right direction Saturday night at Triple-A Syracuse, hurling five impressive innings of one-run ball in his fifth minor league rehab start.

Strasburg was perfect through five innings before allowing two singles to open the sixth. He was then pulled, and one of those runners later scored.

The 23-year-old fanned seven of the 17 batters he faced, hitting the upper-90s with his fastball and showing improved movement on his breaking pitches. Strasburg only made it to 64 pitches, however, so it’s a near-guarantee that he will be asked to make at least one more rehab appearance.

The current plan — albeit tentative — calls for him to return to the major leagues around September 6.

Strasburg registered a 2.91 ERA and 92/17 K/BB ratio over 68 innings last season as a rookie before tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He underwent Tommy John surgery on September 3 , 2010.

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.