There was a very good reason Roberto Hernandez beat out Jeff Niemann for the starting rotation, and it was the same reason behind the not-strong-enough spring performance by the Big Nyquill.
That September shoulder injury never went away.
Joe Smith of the Times has all the details:
#Rays Niemann said he'd been fighting it through spring, really came to head last few days in bullpen.— Joe Smith (@TBTimesRays2) April 5, 2013
Niemann said he's disappointed, but knew yesterday when phone rang in pen and he hoped it wasn't for him that he had to go on DL— Joe Smith (@TBTimesRays2) April 5, 2013
Promoted in his place will be Brandon Gomes, who pitched a strong spring of 11 strikeouts over 10.1 innings in 9 appearance. Small sample size aside, Gomes has had two years of appearances at the major league level. 2011 was stellar, while 2012 was not -- mostly due to control issues, walking 12 over 17.2 IP.
There were those that advocated Jame Wright should have lost his bullpen job to Gomes, namely R.J. Anderson who noted the following comparison:
Wright (2010-2012): 194 1/3 IP, 3.66 ERA (105 ERA+), 1.53 SO/BB, 0.5 HR/9, 1.68 GB/FB
Gomes (2011-2012): 54 2/3 IP, 3.62 ERA (106 ERA+), 1.68 SO/BB, 0.8 HR/9, 0.58 GB/FB
Given Niemann's lingering rotator cuff injury, the Rays were wise to give Wright the nod instead of letting him walk while they sorted out Niemann's status. Perhaps there was optimism entering the season, why else would the Rays not start Niemann on the DL to start the season?
This is Niemann's seventh visit to the disabled list with shoulder injuries since 2005.
For more on Gomes, read Joe Smith's profile on his potential from this spring. A quick excerpt from Maddon:
"He's going to be such a big part of what we're going to do this year - and in the future," Maddon said. "Beyond his skills, this guy is such a great teammate, everybody loves having him there. If you take the Brandon Gomeses of the world, if in fact they don't make a team coming out of spring training, they will impact, and when their time comes, they stay for a long time."