RHP Jeff Niemann, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a lower back strain, could be missing from the Rays starting rotation for a 'minimum of three weeks,' manager Joe Maddon said.
Niemann was pulled from his start Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays after four innings because of tightness in his lower back after Maddon grew concerned when the velocity on his fastball dipped to 86-87 mph. Maddon said Neimann will not begin throwing for at least a week and would need time to rehab.
"The back is stiff. It's going to be a little while,'' Maddon said prior to Friday night's game against the Baltimore Orioles. "We're going to sit him down for one week and then he'll start gradually getting back in the swing of things. I'm looking at probably a minimum of three weeks before you get a good idea what's going to happen next.''
Because the Rays have a day off Monday when Niemann was scheduled to pitch, Maddon could've elected to skip his place in the rotation and pitch David Price on Tuesday against the Indians in Cleveland. But Maddon said the Rays will either start RHP Andy Sonnastine against the Indians, depending on how much he works this weekend, or make another roster move so Price and Shields are available May 16-17 in the series against the Yankees at Tropicana Field.
Since OF Brandon Guyer was recalled from Triple-A Durham when Niemann went on the DL, RHP Alex Cobb is not a candidate to start Tuesday because he was optioned back to Triple-A Durham May 3 and can't be recalled for 10 days. Cobb had mixed results in his MLB debut Sunday against the Angels. LHP Alex Torres, who is 2-2 with a 1.78 ERA in Triple-A Durham, also is a candidate to start Tuesday at Cleveland.