After missing 3 1/2 months with a fractured right fibula, Jeff Niemann exited his start against the Blue Jays on Saturday after just 3 1/3 innings with what was initially described as right arm tightness. It turns out the injury could end his season.
According to Marc Topkin of Tampa Bay Times, Niemann is out indefinitely after an exam by Dr. Koco Eaton today revealed slight inflammation in his right rotator cuff. While he hopes his condition will improve with a couple of days of rest, he’s not sure if he’ll be able to make it back this year.
David Price, James Shields, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb have been fantastic, so the Rays should be able to get by fine in the rotation, but Niemann could have been asked to make another spot start or two in September. Now that assignment would likely fall to Chris Archer, who is expected to join the club later this week.
Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.
Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.
Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.