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Rays breathing sigh of relief on Niemann

Rays' Niemann's shoulder is OK

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ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays received a bit of good news on Thursday after one of their top prospects gave them a scare earlier in the week.

Jeff Niemann, the Rays' top pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, visited the team doctor, and reports came back that his right shoulder is structurally sound.

The 6-foot-9 righty was taken out of his start on Monday night at Triple-A Durham after he faced one hitter. Early reports indicated that Niemann experienced shoulder fatigue, but the organization was understandably concerned and eager to rule out anything more serious.

Because Niemann missed six weeks in 2005 with shoulder inflammation and two months in '06 after ensuing minor surgery to repair the same shoulder, the Bulls will proceed with caution. Niemann will begin an immediate throwing program, but he'll miss his next two starts in Durham.

The righty will again take the mound on Aug. 15, when the Bulls host the Charlotte Knights.

Niemann had a team-high 11 wins to go with five losses at the time of his injury, as well as a 3.90 ERA in 115 1/3 innings. The 24-year-old has fanned a Bulls-leading 108 hitters in 22 starts so far this season and walked 45.

A top pick out of Rice University, Niemann led the Owls to a College World Series title as a sophomore in 2003.

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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