Niemann, Davis remain on track for returns

Niemann, Davis remain on track for returns

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis continued their rehab work by throwing bullpen sessions before Wednesday's game, and manager Joe Maddon said the two right-handers did "real well."

Both starters, who are recovering from right shoulder strains that have had them on the disabled list since the first week of August, remain on track to return on back-to-back days against the Angels.

"The thing I'm always looking for -- especially when they're coming off a little bit of a shoulder [problem] -- is how they finish," Maddon said. "Are they really going to reach out there and finish without guarding? I saw no guarding whatsoever. Honestly, I told them both, 'It looked as though you were warming up to pitch today.' They both were real upbeat and happy and smiley afterward, which is also something you've got to look at. When they react that way, you know they do feel good."

Niemann and Davis will throw simulated games on Friday in Oakland, and Maddon does not think either would need a rehab start before returning to the rotation. Maddon said that the training staff had considered rehab starts after the injuries, but the two have seemingly recovered well enough that they might no longer be necessary.

"If they sincerely are feeling good about themselves and they're throwing the ball easily and the movement's good and there's late life on the ball, then probably I'll feel pretty good. We'll look at all those things," he said.

Perhaps more surprising than the starters' on-pace recovery was the aforementioned "smiley" attitude Maddon saw, particularly from the usually stoic Davis.

"It was brief. I was really paying attention," Maddon said. "I noticed a change in the muscle structure of his face that brief moment. I think he smiled with his eyes."