Tampa Bay Rays: Who Will Replace Jeff Niemann in Rotation?

Dustin HullAnalyst IMay 15, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 24:  Starting pitcher Alex Cobb #53  of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches during the 1st inning of the game against the Kansas City Royals on July 24, 2011 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays' victory over divisional foe Toronto on Tuesday was overshadowed by the injury of Jeff Niemann, who will miss significant time with fractured fibula.

After taking a line drive off of his ankle in the first inning, Niemann left the game an inning later and will be placed on the disabled list for what's believed to be four to six weeks.

This raises the question of who will replace the 6'9" right-hander in the Tampa Bay rotation.

There are a few options for the Rays in this instance, seeing as they have been equipped with solid depth in their starting rotation.

The first replacement for the Rays to consider is Wade Davis. Davis, who was a regular in the 2010 and 2011 rotations, was shifted to the bullpen after Matt Moore permanently grabbed a starting spot.

Part of the reason for Davis going to the bullpen, rather than Niemann, was the fact that the latter needed far more time to warm up before pitching.

Davis has been a solid addition to the bullpen through the first month-and-a-half, and manager Joe Maddon seems decided upon keeping him there and not messing with the success Davis has had.

Which brings us to the next worthy option, and that is Chris Archer.

During the first month of the Durham Bulls' season, Archer struggled mightily through his starts. But since the turn of the calender to May, Archer has had three strong starts, posting a 2-0 record and a 2.00 ERA in that span.

Archer has yet to pitch in the majors, but he seems on the verge of doing so.

His command has long been a problem since starting his pro career, but when in control, there's no doubt that Archer has the stuff to put hitters away.

Archer seems to be close, if not ready for the last step, and Maddon may indeed decide to give the 23-year-old right-hander the rotation spot vacated by Niemann's injury.

The third and final option is Alex Cobb, who had an impressive string of starts last year for the Rays. Cobb, pitching in Triple-A to start this season, posted a 3-2 mark with a 3.42 ERA in his nine starts at the big league level in 2011.

On the flip-side of that, Cobb has had a rough start to 2012, where he has gone 1-4 with a 4.71 ERA for the Bulls.

Maddon may decide with the experience that Cobb already has, that he would be the better choice over Archer.

But there's no denying the repertoire that Archer possesses, or the fact that Maddon could go against his own plan and return Davis to the rotation.

We'll see how this plays out shortly enough, but these three pitchers look ready to fill the spot in the rotation, opened up by the unfortunate injury to Niemann.