Rays facing decision with Jeff Niemann on the way back

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Jeff Niemann, out since mid-May with a fractured leg, allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings in his second rehab start for high-A Charlotte on Tuesday. He’s still probably two rehab starts away from rejoining the Rays, but his return could prompt a roster crunch.

Alex Cobb, Niemann’s rotation replacement, has won his last three starts, allowing exactly one run in seven innings each time. He was struggling some beforehand, but he has pitched better than his 7-8 record and 4.08 ERA overall. In 90 1/3 innings, he’s allowed just four homers and posted a 67/26 K/BB ratio.

Niemann had a 3.38 ERA before going down, so he doesn’t deserve to lose his spot. Still, the Rays could consider taking a look at him in a relief role. After all, he doesn’t project as a member of their playoff rotation, should they make it. The Rays have a top four of David Price, James Shields, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson to use in October, so giving Niemann a head start on pitching out of the pen might be for the best.

Yankees halt Giancarlo Stanton’s rehab due to calf tightness

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There was some thought that Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton would soon be activated from the injured list. Stanton has been out since the beginning of April due to biceps and shoulder injuries. It will be a little while longer.

The Yankees announced on Wednesday that Stanton’s rehab has been halted due to tightness in his left calf. Stanton was scratched from Tuesday’s rehab game with High-A Tampa due to tightness around his left calf and knee, so this news didn’t pop up out of nowhere.

Stanton recorded a pair of singles and seven walks in 15 trips to the plate in the only three games he played this season, all against the Orioles. Durability has always been a concern for the 29-year-old, but he managed to play in 159 games for the Marlins in 2017 and 158 for the Yankees last year. He’s in the fifth year of a 13-year, $325 million contract originally signed with the Marlins.