Jeff Niemann “ready to take the next step” to rehab stint

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Jeff Niemann threw a 45-pitch simulated game yesterday and announced afterward that he’s “ready to take the next step” and begin a minor-league rehab assignment for the back injury that has kept him out since May 6.

Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reports that Niemann will get his wish with rehab stint in which he’ll throw 60, 70, and 90 pitches in three scheduled starts.

Barring a setback, the plan is for Niemann to rejoin the Rays’ rotation five days after throwing 90 pitches in the third rehab start, which puts the timetable for his return sometime in late June.

Rockies activate Ian Desmond from the disabled list

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The Rockies activated first baseman Ian Desmond from the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, the club announced. Cristhian Adames was designated for assignment to create roster space. Desmond is in Sunday’s lineup against the Diamondbacks, batting sixth.

Desmond, 31, signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Rockies in December. In March, he was unfortunately hit by a pitch and suffered a broken left hand. He underwent surgery to repair the damage.

Desmond had been playing in extended spring training as a precursor to rehab games, but he looked so good that the Rockies decided to activate him from the disabled list a little early.

Aaron Sanchez exits game after one inning with a split fingernail

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This wasn’t how Aaron Sanchez was supposed to make his triumphant return from the disabled list. The Blue Jays’ right-hander was activated for his first start on Sunday after undergoing a minor surgical procedure to have part of his fingernail removed. According to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, the surgery should have accelerated the healing process for a troublesome blister, and the team appeared confident in the right-hander’s ability to take the mound for the tail end of their homestand. Instead, Sanchez lasted just 13 pitches before exiting the game with a split nail on his right middle finger.

The team has yet to address Sanchez’s revised timetable for return, but Chisholm points out that they should be able to roll with their current rotation through May 9. If he sits out longer, the Jays could turn to left-hander J.A. Happ, who should be eligible to start sometime next month after he makes a full recovery from a bout of left elbow inflammation.

Sanchez, 24, entered Sunday with a 4.38 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 6.6 SO/9 through 12 1/3 innings with Toronto. He was replaced by right-handed reliever Ryan Tepera in the top of the second inning.