Rays set plans: Niemann in rotation, Davis in bullpen
UPDATE, 10:26: Niemann said he looked at it as a "win-win" for the organization, and that he was pleased to retain his spot. "It's one of those things that's always there but it's not really weighing on you, but just to have the whole situation resolved it's more relieving than anything else,'' Niemann said.
UPDATE, 10:22: Davis said he is not disappointed and is looking forward to helping the team as a reliever. "I'm good. It will be a good experience. ... It's not a demotion. We're still all going for the same thing, to get to World Series as a team. Individualizing yourself and taking it personally would be stupid, and selfish.''
BREAKING: The Rays made it official today, announcing that RHP Jeff Niemann would remain in the rotation and RHP Wade Davis would go to the bullpen.
They did not set the order of the starters, but the rotation includes James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, rookie Matt Moore and Niemann.
"It's a tough situation, and a good situation, that we're in at the same time, with having these two guys being as good as they are,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "And believe me, it's one of the more difficult things we've had to do since I've been here, making this particular call.''
Davis, at least initially, will work as the long reliever, pitching early in games or in extra innings. Niemann will take his spot in the rotation and will not be on any kind of short leash.
"We just liked the idea of Jeff in the rotation right now and we also liked the idea of Wade in the bullpen,'' Maddon said. "Just based on their abilities - the fact that Wade can come out of the bullpen and possibly throw up some high velocity numbers, and possibly make an impact there."
Maddon said it was a difficult and unusual decision, given the quality the Rays had to pick from, and was not based on spring performances. He also made a point of saying the Rays still consider Davis a starter.
Niemann, 29, is clearly considered the more polished starter, with Maddon often noting his ability to get on runs in which he can be their most effective starter. In three seasons in the rotation, Niemann is 36-21, with a .632 winning percentage that is eighth best in the majors, and 4.13 ERA. Niemann was 1-2, 4.05 in four spring starts, plus a minor-league outing.
What he had going for him, Maddon said, was his overall body of work and "the pitch-ability" he's shown thus far. "Looking through the first part of the season, we kinda liked it,'' Maddon said. "It's not like you don't like Wade, it's just you had to make a decision. For right now Wade might be a little more suited for the bullpen, we think, and could really benefit us out there. So, believe me man, I could sit here and try to go back and forth and none of it's going to make any sense because it's that close of a call with these two guys because we think spo highly of both of them.''
Davis, 26, has gone 23-20, 4.27 in the rotatoin over the last two seasons, but Maddon has spoken of him this spring as an unfinished product, specifically needing to become more consistent in his approach to maintain his velocity above 90-plus mph. Davis went 1-2, 4.91 in five spring starts.