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Jeff Niemann

Jeff Niemann

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Jeffrey Warren Niemann (born February 28, 1983 in Houston
Houston, Texas
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of . Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of , which is the ...

, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

) is a Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada, consisting of teams that play in the National League and the American League...

 starting pitcher
Starting pitcher
In baseball or softball, a starting pitcher is the pitcher who delivers the first pitch to the first batter of a game. A pitcher who enters the game after the first pitch of the game is a relief pitcher....

 for the Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays are a Major League Baseball team based in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays are a member of the Eastern Division of MLB's American League. Since their inception in , the club has played at Tropicana Field...

.

College


Niemann, who stands 6-foot-9, was the fourth starter for Rice University
Rice University
William Marsh Rice University, commonly referred to as Rice University or Rice, is a private research university located on a heavily wooded campus in Houston, Texas, United States...

 in his freshman season of , usually starting midweek non-conference games. He posted a 5-1 record with a 3.11 ERA
Earned run average
In baseball statistics, earned run average is the mean of earned runs given up by a pitcher per nine innings pitched. It is determined by dividing the number of earned runs allowed by the number of innings pitched and multiplying by nine...

, including a victory
Win (baseball)
In professional baseball, there are two types of decisions: a win and a loss . In each game, one pitcher on the winning team is awarded a win and one pitcher on the losing team is given a loss in their respective statistics. These pitchers are collectively known as the pitchers of record. Only...

 over Washington
University of Washington
University of Washington is a public research university, founded in 1861 in Seattle, Washington, United States. The UW is the largest university in the Northwest and the oldest public university on the West Coast. The university has three campuses, with its largest campus in the University...

 in the decisive seventh game of the 2003 NCAA
National Collegiate Athletic Association
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a semi-voluntary association of 1,281 institutions, conferences, organizations and individuals that organizes the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States...

 regional at Rice's Reckling Park
Reckling Park
Reckling Park is the baseball stadium at Rice University in Houston, Texas, USA. It serves as the home field of the Rice Owls baseball team. The stadium was built on the site of Cameron Field, Rice's home from 1978-99, in time for the 2000 season...

. In , he stepped into Rice's weekend rotation and quickly became the nation's most dominant pitcher
Pitcher
In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throwsthe baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the...

. He finished the season 17-0 with a 1.70 ERA and 156 strikeout
Strikeout
In baseball or softball, a strikeout or strike-out occurs when a batter receives three strikes during his time at bat. A strikeout is a statistic recorded for both pitchers and batters....

s, being named Western Athletic Conference
Western Athletic Conference
The Western Athletic Conference is an American collegiate athletic conference, which was formed on July 27, 1962, making it the sixth oldest of the 11 college athletic conferences currently participating in the NCAA's Division I FBS...

 Pitcher of the Year, a consensus first-team all-American, and a finalist for the Rotary Smith Award
Rotary Smith Award
The Rotary Smith Award was created in 1988 to honor the most outstanding college baseball player of the year. The award was founded by the Greater Houston Sports Association. In 1996, the Rotary Club of Houston joined the award committee...

 in helping Rice to its first national championship.

Niemann battled injuries as a junior in , but still went 6-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 11 starts, including a complete game
Complete game
In baseball, a complete game is the act of a pitcher pitching an entire game without the benefit of a relief pitcher.As demonstrated by the charts below, in the early 20th century, it was common for most good Major League Baseball pitchers to pitch a complete game almost every start. Pitchers were...

 victory over Texas A&M
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University is a coeducational public research university located in College Station, Texas . It is the flagship institution of the Texas A&M University System. The sixth-largest university in the United States, A&M's enrollment for Fall 2011 was over 50,000 for the first time in school...

 in the NCAA regional. The entire Rice weekend rotation, including Philip Humber
Philip Humber
Philip Gregory Humber is a Major League Baseball pitcher for the Chicago White Sox.-Early life:Humber attended Carthage High School in Carthage, Texas...

, Wade Townsend
Wade Townsend
Wade Daniel Townsend is a Minor League Baseball pitcher who is currently a free agent. He was the Tampa Bay Rays' first-round draft pick out of Rice University in 2005, signing for a $1.5 million bonus...

, and Niemann, were all selected in the first eight picks of the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft
2004 Major League Baseball Draft
The 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Major League Baseball's annual amateur draft, was held on June 7 and 8. It was conducted via conference call with representatives from each of the league's 30 teams...

 - the first time three teammates had ever gone so early in the same draft.

Professional


Niemann was the Rays' first-round draft pick out of Rice University in 2004 as the fourth overall pick. He signed a major league contract in January worth $5.2 million. Niemann opened the 2005 season at Single-A Advanced Visalia
Visalia Oaks
The Visalia Rawhide are a minor league baseball team in Visalia, California, U.S. They are a Class A - Advanced team of the Arizona Diamondbacks operating in the California League and have recently agreed to renew their affiliation through 2012....

, where he went 0-1 with a 3.98 ERA in five starts. After a promotion to the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits
Montgomery Biscuits
The Montgomery Biscuits are a minor league baseball team based in Montgomery, Alabama. The team is the Class AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays and plays in the Southern League. The 2004 season was the team's first in Montgomery...

, he went 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in six appearances, including three starts. He had offseason surgery in 2005 to shave the joint between his collarbone and shoulder and returned to Montgomery in . Flanked in the rotation by starting pitchers Andy Sonnanstine
Andy Sonnanstine
Andrew Michael Sonnanstine is a relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. Sonnanstine is a graduate of Wadsworth High School in Wadsworth, Ohio, and attended Kent State University...

 and Mitch Talbot during the Southern League
Southern League (baseball)
The Southern League is a minor league baseball league which operates in the Southern United States. It is classified a Double-A league. The original league was formed in , and shut down in . A new league, the Southern Association, was formed in , consisting of twelve teams...

 playoffs, Niemann helped lead the Biscuits to the 2006 championship. Following the 2006 season, Baseball America
Baseball America
Baseball America is a magazine which covers baseball at every level, with a particular focus on up-and-coming players in high school, college, Japan, and the minor leagues. It is currently published in the form of a bi-weekly newspaper, five annual reference book titles, a weekly podcast, and a...

 named Niemann the Rays' fourth-best prospect, following Delmon Young
Delmon Young
Delmon Damarcus Young is an American professional baseball outfielder with the Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball. He is the younger brother of former major league outfielder and first baseman Dmitri Young. He was born in Montgomery, Alabama.Young is known for having a strong and accurate...

, Evan Longoria
Evan Longoria
Evan Michael Longoria is a Major League Baseball third baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays. Formerly, Longoria was a star infielder for the Long Beach State University baseball team, the Cape Cod League MVP, and the Big West Co-Player of the Year.He made his major league debut for the Rays in , and...

, and Reid Brignac
Reid Brignac
Reid Michael Brignac is a Major League Baseball shortstop for the Tampa Bay Rays.-Professional career:Brignac was drafted by Tampa Bay Rays in the second round of the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft out of St. Amant High School as a shortstop...

; they also said Niemann possessed the best slider
Slider
In baseball, a slider is a pitch that breaks laterally and down, with a speed between that of a curveball and that of a fastball....

 of any pitcher in the Rays' organization.

Niemann spent the season with the Triple-A Durham Bulls
Durham Bulls
The Durham Bulls are a minor league baseball team that currently plays in the International League. The Bulls play their home games at Durham Bulls Athletic Park located in the downtown area of Durham, North Carolina. Durham Bulls Athletic Park is often called the "DBAP" or "D-Bap". The Bulls are...

. In 25 appearances, all starts, he compiled a 12-6 record and a 3.98 ERA. He was selected to the All-Star Futures Game
All-Star Futures Game
The All-Star Futures Game is an annual baseball exhibition game between a team of top minor league prospects from the United States and a team of prospects from other parts of the World...

.

Niemann made his major league debut on April 13, , against the Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles are a professional baseball team based in Baltimore, Maryland in the United States. They are a member of the Eastern Division of Major League Baseball's American League. One of the American League's eight charter franchises in 1901, it spent its first year as a major league...

, pitching 6 innings en route to his first career win.

Niemann's team leading 13-6 record and 3.94 ERA in 2009 earned him a place in national AL Rookie of the Year Award discussions. The Tampa Bay Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America named him the Rookie of the Year for the Rays for the 2009 season in a unanimous decision by the voters.

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