Tigers, Nationals swap hard-throwing relievers

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It’s a challenge trade: the Tigers and Nationals pulled off an exchange of right-handed relievers Ryan Perry and Collin Balester on Friday.

The trade is a bit more surprising from Detroit’s point of view, but it appears that the Tigers soured on Perry as last year went along, even though he pitched better in the second half than the first. Perry, the 21st overall pick in the 2008 draft, ended the year with a 5.35 ERA and a 24/21 K/BB ratio in 37 innings. Overall, he has a 4.07 ERA and a 129/82 K/BB ratio in 161 1/3 innings as a major leaguer.

Balester is viewed more of a flop than Perry, but he also has the better raw stuff; while both tend to throw in the 93-95 mph range, Balester’s curveball is a superior offering to Perry’s slider. It shows in the strikeout numbers, as Balester has fanned 62 in 56 2/3 innings of relief over the last two years.

Balester, though, has more of a wild streak than Perry. He’s also out of options, whereas Perry still has an option year left. That definitely played a role in the Nationals’ thinking here, as they had at least five relievers ahead of Balester on the depth chart.

Personally, I’d give the edge to the Tigers. Perry’s upside appears quite limited at this point, and while he may be a better bet to give a team 65 acceptable innings than Balester, I’d take my chances with Balester fulfilling his potential one of the years. He’s only been a full-time reliever for 1 2/3 seasons now.

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.