Josh Johnson feels good after first start since last May

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The Marlins enter spring training with plenty of excitement after changing their name, logo and uniforms and making some pretty splashy additions, but they’ll have a tough time contending if they don’t get the old Josh Johnson back. He took a step in the right direction yesterday.

Johnson threw 41 pitches over 1 2/3 scoreless innings against the Cardinals in his first start since being placed on the disabled list last May with right shoulder inflammation. He retired the first five batters he faced (including two strikeouts) before reaching his pitch count after giving up a single, a double and a walk to load the bases.

Of course, the results are secondary at this point. The important part is that Johnson topped out around 94 mph with his fastball and told Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post that his shoulder feels good.

“It was good to get it of the way,” he said. “Shoulder feels great so that’s a big step.”

Johnson could make his next start Sunday against the Mets. The Marlins hope to have their ace right-hander ready for the season opener against the Cardinals on April 4 as they open their new stadium in Little Havana.

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.