Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Niemann's velocity no concern for now

SARASOTA — RHP Jeff Niemann threw the ball relatively well in Thursday's 4-3 win over the Orioles. But he didn't throw it hard, clocked mostly at 85-86 mph and topping out an 88, below his normal velocity.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said there is no concern that Niemann, who was shut down at the end of last season because of shoulder inflammation, was injured: "He was not wincing. There were no issues."

Niemann said he was throwing that way by design, using primarily cutters and two-seam fastballs during the 71-pitch outing. His priority was movement rather than velocity, which is normally 90-91 mph for him. He allowed four singles — two in the infield — walked three and struck out three.

"I think the gun's a little off," Niemann said. "We're definitely going more movement right now; we're able to execute and get those bad swings and get those weak-hit balls. For me, it's more important what the hitter's telling me than what the radar gun says."

Maddon noticed the reduced velocity but also the results.

"He got sharper as the game was in progress. His velocity came up to 87-88 on occasion but definitely had good movement," Maddon said. "He was fine. There were no issues. … He just did not have that normal velocity. As long as he's well, I'm sure that's going to show up. The thing that I liked was the fact that the ball continues to move so much."

Niemann, 30, is competing with Roberto Hernandez for the final rotation spot. Though the bullpen is a possibility if Niemann doesn't get the job, a trade seems more likely. There was at least a question, if not a concern, among scouts Thursday about his shoulder strength given the diminished velocity.

HANDS OFF: The Rays scored the decisive run on an unusual call, Wil Myers, who had doubled and moved up on a wild pitch, was sent home when the umpires nabbed C Luis Exposito using his mask to scoop the ball in front of the plate. Exposito thought time was called.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the call was correct but the rule is bad: "What purpose does it serve? The ball is 2 feet in front of home plate and you are going to decide a ballgame with that?"

PITCHING IN: RHP Jeremy Hellickson worked in a minor-league game rather than pitch against the Orioles, since he is likely to face them in the second game of the season. Things didn't go too well in his 3⅓ innings on the back field, though, as he allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits, four walks and a hit batter, with three strikeouts, throwing 70 pitches (41 strikes). … LHP Jake McGee pitches in a minor-league game today, then for the Rays on Saturday in his first back-to-back outings.

GAME DETAILS: The Rays (12-7) took a 3-0 lead on a Kelly Johnson walk, an Evan Lon­goria double and a homer by Luke Scott to right-center off LHP Mike Belfiore. … The Orioles tied it on a three-run homer by Matt Wieters off RHP Juan Sandoval, who has struggled after an impressive start in the spring. "I thought it was a fly ball but it was really long," Sandoval said. "A couple of rough outings lately. … I'm feeling in good shape." … Maddon called on impressive minor-league RHP Kirby Yates to get the final out. After a walk, Yates struck out L.J. Hoes.

MISCELLANY: 3B coach Tom Foley missed the game and likely will miss a few others due to a family matter. … The crowd of 8,797 was an Ed Smith Stadium record. … INF Tim Beckham played for the first time since getting eight stitches to close a cut under his right eye after being hit by a thrown ball March 8. … OF Sam Fuld continues to step up his activity but might not return from right hamstring tightness until next week; he has been out since March 3.

Comments
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

1. SS Willy Adames had a nice night, and there appear to be many more in his future. He had two hits, an RBI and an inning-ending leaping catch on a line drive by Didi Gregorius in the fifth.2. DH C.J. Cron needs to shake things up. Take a different ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

By Allana BarefieldTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — Latin pop star Marc Anthony visited Tropicana Field on Friday to see his beloved Yankees play the Rays.Anthony spent nearly an hour on the field before the game as fans and players surrounde...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays reinstated INF Daniel Robertson from the 10-day disabled list (left hamstring strain). To make room, RHP Austin Pruitt was sent to Triple-A Durham."It's out of my mind. I don't think about (the hamstring) when I'm bend...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG – Many times this season the Rays' strategy of opening the game with a short reliever and using the bullpen to finish hasn't had much success.Friday wasn't one of those nights.A total of six pitchers held the Yankees and their va...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

ST. PETERSBURG – Rookie 1B Jake Bauers has impressed at the plate and in the field since his June 7 promotion.Also, with his hustling on the bases."I knew he played hard; everybody said that at every level,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I di...
Published: 06/21/18
Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Rays were engaged in a third straight tight, go-either-way battle with the defending champ Astros on Wednesday.Until they were not.A brutal seven-pitch sequence by starter Nathan Eovaldi changed everything, as he gave up three con...
Published: 06/21/18
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Published: 06/20/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

RHP Nathan Eovaldi said before his rough start Wednesday against the Astros that he was pitching better than his numbers showed. Well … In four starts since his six no-hit innings debut, he's 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA, allowing eight homers, four Wed...
Published: 06/20/18
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Published: 06/20/18