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Jeff Niemann “ready to take the next step” to rehab stint

May 31, 2011, 10:15 AM EDT

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Jeff Niemann threw a 45-pitch simulated game yesterday and announced afterward that he’s “ready to take the next step” and begin a minor-league rehab assignment for the back injury that has kept him out since May 6.

Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reports that Niemann will get his wish with rehab stint in which he’ll throw 60, 70, and 90 pitches in three scheduled starts.

Barring a setback, the plan is for Niemann to rejoin the Rays’ rotation five days after throwing 90 pitches in the third rehab start, which puts the timetable for his return sometime in late June.

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