So much for that so-called “Accountability”-thingy that Joe Maddon kept talking about. The Rays have announced that Jeff Niemann has been optioned to the minors and the rotation to start the season has been set.

The Rays’ rotation is officially set, with the expected five guys in there—if in a slightly different order. James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel will open the year in the rotation, with J.P. Howell still “competing” for a bullpen slot. Yes, he has options and Balfour and Dohmann don’t, but he’s the only choice as a long reliever right now and it’s a pretty good idea to have one of those around to open the season.

Just for the fun of it, let’s see how Hammel “won” the final spot over Niemann.

Jason Hammel 17.2 21 7.6 9 10 1 7.64 1.70 .810
Jeff Niemann 12.0 12 6.3 5 5 0 1.50 1.42 .695

Maybe Niemann is having trouble hitting breaking balls also.

And boy do the Rays need Scott Kazmir back. SOON. This rotation is no better than the one that opened the 2007 season.

Niemann sent down to AAA Durham [Tampa Bay Rays]
Rays set starting rotation [Rays Report]



  1. Hazleton Jason says:

    looks like last place team again... wow what poor choices- Niemann and Longoria are getting boned...

    I think Kaz is hurt more than they let on too... I have a sneaky feeling he was re-injured in that bullpen before his sched start last week, and that we won't see him until June-

  2. Robert Rittner says:

    I don't think the decision had anything to do with who outpitched whom. In fewer than 20 innings it wouldn't make any difference anyway.

    It probably had something to do with the options issue, and reasonably so, although that may be over-emphasized too.

    I think there are two other more likely possibilities. One is that despite the ugly numbers Maddon saw some positives in Hammel that convinced him he may succeed.

    But I think the real reason is that Niemann is simply not ready for the majors. His last year at Durham, the first that he was healthy, was promising but not outstanding. And in the spring, while his ERA was good, that is all that looked good. In most outings he labored, threw too many pitches, walked too many and did not strike out many (5 in 12 innings is pretty bad).

    Bringing him up would be repeating the error the Dodgers made with Jackson. He needs to refine his pitching in the minors so once he arrives it is for good. Bringing him to TB can only retard or even sabotage his growth as a pitcher, and that is a foolish risk right now.

  3. Big Mike says:

    robert, i am sure you are right, but at what point does maddon step back and say "it is just not working with hammel".

    i thought maddon and freidman said that we were done developing at the major league level. now it is supposed to be about wins.

    and from what i have seen and most fans agree, the rays have a better chance to win with Niemann than with hammel.

    i agree that hammel has "stuff" to be good. but he is NOT good now. on the other hand, niemann came in and did everything that was asked.

    and while i agree that niemann still has a little work to do, he looks a lot closer than hammel and i sure hope this was NOT just a decision based on options. because that is not what a team that is serious about winning does.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I agree that 20 innings doesn't show much. But look back at the alleged 'chance' Hammel got last spring...less than 10 innings pitched in all of the spring, then he was jerked back and forth between Durham and Rays, then once up for good, was tossed between starter and bullpen. But once he had steady starting work, he was pitching well. I think Maddon wants to see what consistent opportunities in a regular season starting role from day 1 will show from Hammel. If he doesn't produce, then Niemann has had some time in Durham to hone his stuff, and Hammel is snatched up by someone else.

  5. Robert Rittner says:

    "and from what i have seen and most fans agree, the rays have a better chance to win with Niemann than with hammel."
    From what I have seen, the Rays do not have a better chance with Niemann, although they do have a very good chance of ruining him by trying. In any case, it really doesn't matter what I see or for that matter what you or most fans see. What matters is what Maddon and his staff see, and while there may be other issues, I think the fundamental one is that they see what I described above.

    Parenthetically, probably the worst thing a team can do is consider what the fans want, at least when it comes to player decisions.

    It is irrelevant to compare decisions from one year to another because the situations are different. The issue now is what are the alternatives. Having decided that Howell will serve best in the bullpen, and having determined (I think rightly, but no matter) that Niemann is not ready, who else is there to start. There are no other alternatives unless they make a trade or pick up the dregs of the free agent market. I suppose they could acquire Jeff Weaver. Or Horacio Ramirez. Or perhaps someone will come available off waivers.

    But short of that, Hammel is the choice by default. Had Kazmir not been hurt, I doubt he would still be on the team, but those are the vagaries of the game. It might have made sense to try to get a Lohse or maybe look at Patterson, but frankly I do not think either is clearly an upgrade, and it would likely be a waste of money.

  6. Stevo says:

    Boy! I'm about as annonyed as one can be with Niemann in AAA, but lets look at this differently, When "Kid K" returns someone's gonna get sat down. Jackson or Hammel most likely. Why not use this time to evaluate real world effectiveness of these two and avoid chosing the wrong one to put out on waivers? with Niemann you aren't backed into a corner to make a decision, just send him down. I know we the fans don't like it but hey...that's the biz. In the mean time, I for one will give both Edwin and Jason the benefit of the doubt. Both have been reported as having improved their stuff over last year. The NYY will be a more then appropriate test come games #4 and #5. Go Rays!

  7. Anonymous says:

    i wasnt saying that the team should listen to the fans. i was only saying that it appears that only the fans seem to see that Niemann has outperformed Hammel. obviously they see something that we dont see and something the numbers dont see. i hope they know what they are doing.

  8. Andrew says:

    Robert speaks the truth that we all don't want to believe as fans. This is a business and those in the business mustn't let their decisions be made by those outside of it. They've obviously considered that this is the last chance for Hammel and Jackson, Niemann can still be optioned out. Should either Hammel or Jackson fail, Niemann is ready and waiting as the first available call-up - whereas, were Niemann to be tabbed over either to start the season and then fail, you don't have one of these two veterans to turn to.

    Give Niemann 50-100 innings more in Durham, let's see some prolonged success. Build on a nice little spring. And, for what its worth, as long as Jae Seo isn't on the staff I give it the stamp of approval over that of last year. We have 5 young guns, Kaz mending, and a slew of back-up on the way. Should be fun.


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