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.