Rays Notes: Fracture in Lower Leg Sidelines Niemann

By Robbie Knopf

First, Desmond Jennings went down. And now Jeff Niemann will be out  for a while. Niemann injured his ankle in the first inning on Monday night on a line drive off the bat off Adam Lind, and after finishing the inning, he had to leave the game. Probably the worst scenario came into play as Niemann fractured his fibula, the bone in the lower part of his leg and should be out two to three months. The Rays will need to replace him in the rotation, with Wade Davis and Alex Cobb the likely options to replace him. Davis tossed 184 innings in 2011, but he has thrown 50 pitches just once in 2012 and has looked sharp out of the bullpen, posting a 2.04 ERA and a 3.14 FIP. Another clear option is Alex Cobb, who started last night as well at Triple-A Durham and his next scheduled start would be the day that Niemann’s would be. He could slide easily into the rotation. Cobb was effective in the big leagues in 9 starts in 2011, going 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA and a 3.73 FIP, and he has gone just 1-4 with a 4.14 ERA at Durham in 2012, but with a 2.84 FIP. Cobb is a viable option and we’ll have to see what the Rays decide to do. Keep in mind that even if Cobb will make the start, he won’t be called up until the day of his start, with the Rays grabbing a bullpen arm until Saturday.

In other news, Hideki Matsui is set to begin playing for Triple-A Durham starting tonight. If Matsui can play well there, we could see Matsui becoming the Rays’ DH, at least part-time, as Luke Scott is almost ready to play the outfield.

And the Rays have made a minor league signing, bringing in former Indians, Giants, and Rangers first baseman and part-time outfielder Ryan Garko. Garko was a pretty good major league player not that long ago. In 2007, he posted a .289/.359/.483 line with 29 doubles, 21 homers, and 61 RBI in 138 games for the Indians, and he managed a .271/.345/.411 line from 2008-2009 with an average of 17 doubles and 14 homers per season.  But Garko struggled at Triple-A for the Rangers in 2010 and appeared in just 15 MLB games, and he spent 2011 playing in Korea before an injury ended his season. Garko his .450 in 16 games with the independent Long Island Ducks before signing with the Rays. Garko will start at Double-A Montgomery with the chance to move up if he regains his former form. Garko isn’t that old, being 31 years old, and he provides more power-hitting DH depth for the Rays. It’s another low risk signing for the Rays, and Garko is a player who has shown his ability to get on base and hit for some power in the past.