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Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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Niemann pleased with his day

DUNEDIN - With a pitching line that included four runs and eight hits in 31/3 innings, one would think Jeff Niemann would not be happy with the performance. Quite the opposite. The 6-foot-9 right-hander, battling Wade Davis and Matt Moore for the No. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation, was very pleased with his performance. "I felt really good," Niemann said. "I didn't exactly see the results I wanted at the end, but everything felt great early on. (Friday) was really about getting the pitch count up." In Niemann's previous start, he threw only 27 pitches in three innings. On Friday, in the Rays' 5-0 loss to Toronto, he threw 65 pitches.
The Blue Jays roughed Niemann up a bit in the fourth inning, getting two runs on four hits before Niemann reached his pitch limit. "I had 10 pitches left," Niemann said. "Normally, that's a couple batters. Instead, it was four hits on about eight pitches." Rays manager Joe Maddon was also happy with Niemann's outing. "I thought Jeff overall had good stuff," Maddon said. "He just ran out of gas. He did some really good things, but the ball got elevated at the end." Niemann was especially happy with the progression of his slider, something he has added to his repertoire. "It's not in full game mode, yet," Niemann said. "But it's getting close. We had a few strikeouts with it today, so it's coming along." Where's the hits? The Rays were held to two singles. Maddon isn't overly concerned about the lack of hits, but he is frustrated about not being able to work on things because of a lack of base runners. With a .219 spring batting average, the Rays are 29th in hitting and averaging only 7.3 hits a game. They also are 29th in home runs, with four. "We have so many guys that aren't playing, and the ones that are playing aren't swinging the bat well," Maddon said. "We're giving a lot of at-bats to guys that may not be with us during the regular season. "It's frustrating, because we can't be ourselves on the bases. The things we like to work on we really haven't had a chance to work on because of that. We just need to get the regulars on the field as a unit." Both of the Rays' hits came in the sixth inning, when Brandon Guyer led off the inning with a bunt. Chris Gimenez executed a perfect hit-and-run by slashing a single between first and second, moving Guyer to third. "That was a well-executed hit-and-run by Chris," Maddon said. "When you're not hitting, you have to take chances like that." The top of the Rays order — Desmond Jennings, Sean Rodriguez and Evan Longoria — went down in order and both runners were stranded. Noteworthy Palm Harbor resident Vic Carapazza was the plate umpire in Friday's game. He's the son-in-law of former Major League Baseball umpire Richie Garcia, who lives in Clearwater and was at the game. … James Shields (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will start for the Rays today against the Pirates in Bradenton. … In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the Rays will wear green necklaces in today's game. … After the majority of the Rays players and staff had their hair cut off for charity Thursday, some players had to get smaller hats. Rick Harmon
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