Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hammel traded; Niemann fifth starter

The Rays traded Jason Hammel to the Rockies on Sunday for Double A pitching prospect Aneury Rodriguez, a moves that makes Jeff Niemann the fifth starter and Lance Cormier the long-man in the bullpen.

The trade was made after Hammel pitched in a Triple A game at the Rays spring training complex in Port Charlotte.

The 26-year-old Hammel was 4-4 with a 4.60 ERA in 40 appearances last season for the Rays. He started five games in April in place of Scott Kazmir, who was on the disabled list. Hammel became the long-man once Kazmir returned.

Niemann made two starts when Matt Garza was on the disabled list last April, splitting the two decisions.

The 6-foot-9 right-hander is thought to have more upside than Hammel, though his future with the Rays could be as a relief pitcher, perhaps even as the closer.

Niemann will hold on to the fifth spot until the Rays decide David Price is ready to rejoin the team. Price, who earned his first big league win and save in last October’s ALCS, will begin the year in Triple A.

The 21-year-old Rodriguez was to start the season in Double A for the Rockies. The hard-throwing right-hander was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA last season at Class A. He had 139 strikeouts and 40 walks.

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