Cardinals sign Allen Craig to $31 million contract extension

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Allen Craig was very productive as a part-timer in 2011 and had a breakout year stepping into the starting lineup last season, and now the Cardinals have locked him up long term.

Craig has agreed to a five-year contract that includes a team option for 2018, so he’s now under the Cardinals’ control through age 33. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that the deal is worth $31 million in guaranteed money.

While technically a five-year deal, the contract includes this season and then covers all three of Craig’s arbitration-eligible seasons (2014-2016) plus his first season of free agency (2017). And then the Cardinals get an option year on his second season of free agency (2018).

It’s a big commitment to a guy who didn’t play regularly in the majors until age 25, but Craig has been one of the best hitters in baseball over the past two seasons while batting .309 with 33 homers, 50 doubles, and an .889 OPS in 733 plate appearances. Among all MLB hitters with at least 600 plate appearances during that time Craig ranks 12th in batting average, 14th in slugging percentage, and 18th in OPS.

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.