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Rays facing decision with Jeff Niemann on the way back

Aug 15, 2012, 1:24 PM EDT

Jeff Niemann Getty Images

Jeff Niemann, out since mid-May with a fractured leg, allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings in his second rehab start for high-A Charlotte on Tuesday. He’s still probably two rehab starts away from rejoining the Rays, but his return could prompt a roster crunch.

Alex Cobb, Niemann’s rotation replacement, has won his last three starts, allowing exactly one run in seven innings each time. He was struggling some beforehand, but he has pitched better than his 7-8 record and 4.08 ERA overall. In 90 1/3 innings, he’s allowed just four homers and posted a 67/26 K/BB ratio.

Niemann had a 3.38 ERA before going down, so he doesn’t deserve to lose his spot. Still, the Rays could consider taking a look at him in a relief role. After all, he doesn’t project as a member of their playoff rotation, should they make it. The Rays have a top four of David Price, James Shields, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson to use in October, so giving Niemann a head start on pitching out of the pen might be for the best.

  1. mikeincmn - Aug 15, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Helickson has been pretty so-so almost all year, not awfully bad or good much like Matt Moore, so my guess is it would be one of those two over Niemann that would go to the bullpen.

    • hittfamily - Aug 15, 2012 at 2:48 PM

      You don’t watch a lot of baseball do you? Matt Moore has been the best pitcher in baseball since late June.

      • mikeincmn - Aug 15, 2012 at 6:58 PM

        I watch plenty of baseball, but Moore still has some shaky outings. Obviously Helickson would be the guy to move to the pen, but are they watching Moore’s innings at all or did he surpass that threshold last season?

      • hittfamily - Aug 15, 2012 at 7:00 PM

        No innings limit, and Hellickson is a beast despite what Fangraphs says. He just went 7 today with 5 hits. A stolen base and WP were the only reason he took the loss to the guy who threw a perfect game.

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