Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann is no stranger to the spring battle to gain the last spot in the rotation. This is nothing new in Major League Baseball, but after a broken leg last year and only making eight starts, there are some question marks. Add to that the Rays signing Roberto Hernandez from the Cleveland Indians, and depending on who wins the battle, the rotation slot could slip from Niemann’s grasp.
Niemann is not a stranger to the battle. In his freshman year at Rice University, he fought for the fourth spot in the rotation—and won. His sophomore year, Niemann came out of the gate like he was running the Preakness. At 17-0 and a 1.70 ERA, he was named Western Atlantic Conference pitcher of the year.
His pitching prowess at Rice caught the eye of the Rays. They took him with the fourth pick in the first round of the 2004 MLB draft. Signing with the Rays in 2005, Niemann spent his first two years with the Rays in the bottom of the minor leagues. In 2007, he was promoted to the Durham Bulls (Rays’ Triple-A team) and started 25 games. He finished his time at Durham in 2007 and moved to Tampa in 2008.
At 6’9”, Niemann dominates the mound. This hard throwing right-hander throws around 91 MPH, and he has compiled a 40-26 record, 4.08 ERA, 34 SO, and a 1.105 WHIP in five-years with the Rays. He averaged 12 wins a season for the Rays, from 2009-2011.
Niemann was placed on the disabled list last year after suffering a broken leg by getting hit on the ankle from a line drive. He managed to get the out and finish the inning. Niemann is a fighter and should never be counted out.