Will the Rays have to shut down Jeff Nieman and Alex Cobb?

The absolute answer at this point is that we don’t know, but both are possible. And amazingly, Niemann may have a better shot of pitching in the postseason if the Rays make it that far. But if not, it could be Chris Archer making two of the most important starts of the season for the Rays.

First Niemann: Joe Maddon wasn’t optimistic that Niemann would pitch again this season. Then Niemann met with Dr. James Andrews, which is never a good sign. But after meeting with Dr. Andrews, there is apparently hope that Niemann will indeed pitch again this year (via MLB.com)…

Manager Joe Maddon said the big righty met with Dr. James Andrews and was told that Niemann may be able to start throwing “in a couple of weeks…He was checked out, and the doc said it wasn’t that bad,” Maddon said. “He felt like he could be throwing soon.”

But things are trickier with Corn Cobb. Joe Maddon says Cobb will probably make three more starts and then be shut down. Why? The Rays prefer to limit the workload on the arms of young pitchers.

While it is not a hard-and-fast rule, the Rays prefer to limit their young pitchers to a 20% increase in innings from one year to the next. For Cobb, that would mean 144 innings this season after pitching just 120 in 2011. And Cobb has already surpassed that number with 155.0 innings pitched this season.

But things get a bit more complicated for Cobb. Most pitchers show an increase each season. But Cobb actually pitched more innings in 2010 (144.2) than 2011 (120.0). So a 20% increase over his previous high would be 173.2 innings, or 18.2 more innings than he has pitched so far…

So it sounds like the Rays are going with the “20% more than his previous high” criteria. And that means three more starts. And that means Alex Cobb’s final start will likely be 9/21 against the Jays.

That also means the Rays will need somebody else to fill in for what would have been Cobb’s final two starts of the season, which would likely include 9/27 against the White Sox, and more importantly, 10/2 (Game 161) against the Orioles.

So will Niemann make those starts? Hopefully. Or will Chris Archer? That’s a lot of pressure on a kid with 11.2 innings pitched in his career. Either way, the Rays pitching depth is going to be tested in the final two weeks of the season.

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17 Comments

  1. don says:

    Thats fine..hes probably #5 next year anyway as somebody(s) go

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  2. Chris D says:

    Why not sub Archer in against the Jays and give Cobb long rest?

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      Another possibility, but at this point in the year, I don't know if the Rays want to just skip a start and give a young arm 9-10 days off. Sometimes it is tough to restart the arm at that point. But that is certainly an option I am sure they are considering.

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      • Ken says:

        With a day off on Monday 9/10 they could pitch Matt and Jeremy on normal rest the first two games in Baltimore and then push Cobb back to thursday 9/13. This would give Cobb 8 days rest between then and his last start against NYY on 9/4. This help in several ways. Matt would then pitch the 3rd game in NY instead of Cobb. Cobb gets to pitch at home against Boston instead on in NY. Archer would only have to pitch one game (CWS on 9/29) because Matt and Jeremy would be pitching the last two games of the regular season (games 161 and 162). This would also set up Price to pitch the one game wild card if we do not win the division.

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  3. Dave L says:

    Hope Archer has been working on his fastball location, his change up and his slide.

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  4. richard b. says:

    .....i don't like the fact the rays are thinking of using a rookie....if cobb needs to be shut down, my preference would be to use wade davis or jake mcgee, who was a minor league starter before becoming a reliever..i gotta think either one could go at least 5 innings....use chris archer in long relief.

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  5. Jay says:

    Richard B -- my thoughts exactly. This is why you've kept Wade Davis. To get 4-5 pressure-cooker innings out of him late in the season. Let Archer take his place in the bullpen.

    If things go bad and you have to use Archer, then it probably doesn't matter anyways because we have no margin for error and are out of the playoffs.

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    • Sledge says:

      My first reaction would have been the same - Davis over Archer. But I have a feeling that the baseball pros will tell us that you can't just move Davis from a routine of throwing 1-2 innings at a time to throwing 5 late in the season without having some downsides. It seems to me that a start where Archer gives them 3+ then 2 from Davis then 2 from Howell will be what they are targeting, and if they get 4 or more, then they'll be ecstatic.

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  6. dan r says:

    I am not an expert on wear and tear of an arm, but I think Mcgee and Davis would not be wise choices at this point, Davis has had a few multiple inning appearences, but I wouldn't just throw him into the starter role. ramos? or archer? perhaps the old braves addage "spahn and sain, and pray for rain". . .

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  7. Rob says:

    Not sure where this should go, but I just wanted to post a link to ESPN's sports franchise rankings that came out today: http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/teamrankings

    The Rays are 16th overall out of 122 pro franchises (TBL are 7th and TBB are 97th) and if it weren't for the crappy stadium experience they would be ranked even higher. They are still #1 for affordability, but for some reason, we still can't fill the stands against a division rival on a holiday during a pennant race.

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    • Tom says:

      Rob, why drive 45 minutes from Tampa to fight traffic, spend 20 minutes looking for a parking spot and do the same coming home when I can just watch it on my nice TV? Its not like the fan experience at the trop is worth all of that

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      • Rob says:

        I don't have a logical answer that would convince you. It's a personal decision, obviously, and either you enjoy going to the games (for whatever reason) more than you dislike the obstacles or you don't.

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  8. Beazy says:

    If it's possible, lets use WD-40 in SP

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  9. richard b. says:

    ......i still fail to understand how it could possibly be bad for wade davis or jake mcgee to start a game just cause they've been used as relievers...now i realize that at the ripe old age of 57 i'm not up on current pitching practices.....i grew up at a time when teams used a 4 man rotation and it was rare for a pitcher not to throw a complete game....so how is it possible, that 2 guys who have thrown less than 50 innings each all season, couldn't start a game?....and pleeze don't tell me cause "they're not stretched out".

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  10. Andy says:

    I vote for a combo of Archer/Ramos posing as 1 SP, maybe each going @ 3-4 innings/game, as a 6th starter - as Rays wanted to use Niemann before latest flare-up. Each part of the combo have spot-started for us this year, rather effectively, as I recall. Yes, the ever-desired "meaningful games in Sept" can change things, but we also have 2 gr8 guys on hand who've done exactly this (Price, Moore)!! They can provide guidance, support, groundedness, etc. as needed :)

    Tom, tho I hear your point, having just thoroughly enjoyed tonight's game in BJ's corner in CF (where his latest 2 HRs landed), I must wholeheartedly disagree!! Watching on TV in the comforts of home has value, for sure. But the Trop experience is another item entirely! Yes, you watch the game in each situation, but the real, live experience significantly enhances the game as you & many other fans get involved in helping to inspire & motivate the players!!! Plus, watching both Rays' HRs from that location was AWESOME!!! Knew from the outset both balls were gone :D & Zo's being a Walk-off was just NUTS!!! If I didn't care much for the Rays, I might agree w/Tom. But, as an avid fan, being at the Trop is GR8!!! I also enjoy a stage play/musical, even if I've already seen the movie!! Hell, I even enjoy some of them I've already seen live or even acted out myself - each stage experience is unique. And, so is each game :)

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