Cubs “leaning toward” using Carlos Villanueva as reliever

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When the Cubs signed Carlos Villanueva to a two-year, $10 million deal in December it was assumed that he’d be in the starting rotation, but now Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes that they “seem to be leaning toward using Villanueva out of the bullpen.”

Villanueva said all the right things about filling whatever role is asked of him, but did tell Muskat: “I’m a starter and I’ve always seen myself as a starter.”

Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Jeff Samardzija, and Scott Feldman are locked in as starters, so Villanueva’s chances of joining them in the rotation depend mostly on Scott Baker’s recovery from elbow surgery and partly on how impressive Travis Wood looks in camp.

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.