Four years after the Rays made Jeff Niemann the fourth overall pick in the draft, it looks like the righthander is finally getting his shot at the majors.
No official move has been made yet, but it appears likely that Niemann will take the rotation spot of Matt Garza, who will miss at least two weeks with a radial nerve irritation in his right arm. The Bradenton Herald and the Tampa Tribune are both reporting that Niemann will likely make his first major league start on Sunday, and Niemann is listed as the Rays' probable starter for Sunday's game against the Orioles on MLB.com.
At 6-foot-9 and 25 years old, Niemann's ascension took the big leagues has taken longer than many had expected from the former Rice star. Niemann has battled through injuries since signing, and his 131 innings last year with Triple-A Durham were 54 innings more than his previous professional high in 2006.
Though he struggled at times with his command, his control was at its best at the end of the season last year. In his final three regular season starts with the Bulls, Niemann gave up eight earned runs in 15 2/3 innings, but he also had a 15-1 K-BB ratio. In two International League playoff games, Niemann allowed three runs in 13 innings and had a 16-4 K-BB ratio.