Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeff Niemann pulled against New York Yankees despite leading

NEW YORK — The results were good at the time. RHP Jeff Niemann had a shutout going against the Yankees on Thursday and was in line for a win.

But manager Joe Maddon didn't like what he was seeing, especially that Niemann had thrown 78 pitches, when he pulled the starter with one out in the fourth.

"You've got to guess at that point, but it did not look good at that point in regard to throwing the ball where he wanted to," Maddon said. "I'd like to see Jeff get deeper, no question. If I had thought Jeff was more sharp with his command, I probably would have acted differently."

Niemann was replaced with two on, and Lance Cormier ended up giving up those two runs and two others. But Maddon said it was still the right move.

Niemann, a rookie making his eighth start, said he was a tad surprised but understood. "I think it's one of those things where I have to earn that right to stay out there and work through some trouble," Niemann said.

AND THE WINNER IS … : LHP Brian Shouse threw four pitches and got only the first two outs of the ninth, but he was awarded the victory. That's because of MLB rule 10.17 (c), which says a reliever who is "ineffective in a brief appearance" (as Dan Wheeler was) can't be awarded the victory "when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain the lead" (as Shouse was and did).

Joe Nelson got a one-out save. Maddon said he wanted to give Troy Percival the night off.

UPTON OUT: CF B.J. Upton was out of the lineup and might sit out tonight due to an intestinal bug, as much for the illness as possibly being more susceptible to muscle pulls by being dehydrated. "There's a propensity to pull (leg muscles) on his part, and any time you get dehydrated, the chances go up," Maddon said.

The problem came on suddenly during Wednesday's game, delaying Upton's return to the field after the end of the rain delay. "He was, uh, indisposed," Maddon said.

"That's exactly why I was late," Upton said, describing the problem as like a 24-hour bug. "During the game, I was a little suspect. After the game, I lost it."

UNFRIENDLY CONFINES: The way the Rays look at it, RHP James Shields is due for a win at Fenway Park. They might as well think that way because they have no other explanation for his odd struggles. He is 3-1 with a 3.32 ERA in six regular-season starts against Boston at Tropicana Field and 0-4 with a 9.56 ERA in four starts at Fenway.

"I go out there with the same mind-frame every single outing," Shields said. "There's no real rhyme or reason to it. It's one of those things where if I throw well there (tonight), I don't think I'll hear that question again."

MINOR MATTERS: LHP David Price had another rough start for Triple-A Durham, walking five while allowing four runs and six hits and lasting just four innings. Price (1-4) hasn't made it past the fourth in four of his six starts under a 75-pitch limit and has a 4.74 ERA. ... Double-A Montgomery placed RHP Jeremy Hellickson on the DL, though there was no update on his condition. He left Tuesday's start with a shoulder strain.

MISCELLANY: C Shawn Riggans (right shoulder tendinitis) played the third of five scheduled rehab games for Montgomery. He was 0-for-1 and removed when feeling discomfort after making a throw. … C Dioner Navarro started despite three bruises sustained Wednesday when he was hit by a pitch in the foot, a Johnny Damon foul ball on the left forearm and a J.P Howell pitch on his left palm. … Carl Crawford had gone 258 at-bats without a homer. … Evan Longoria extended his hitting streak to a career-best 11 games. … The Yankees lost their season-high fifth straight. … Mariano Rivera has allowed two homers in a game four times, most recently before Thursday on July 19, 1998.

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeff Niemann pulled against New York Yankees despite leading 05/07/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 8, 2009 8:05am]

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