ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' bullpen got some reinforcements prior to Monday's game, as right-handers Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot joined Tampa Bay as the final expected September callups.
For now, manager Joe Maddon said the plan is to use the pair of starters in a relief role similar to that of lefty prospect David Price, who had an extended outing on Sunday -- tossing 5 1/3 innings -- after starter Edwin Jackson made a quick exit against the Yankees.
"If something unforeseen were to happen, one of those guys would pick it up early," Maddon said. "For right now, I don't see a meaningful moment spotting them up [with a specific hitter] as long as the bullpen is frisky and fresh. So they are beginning or end kind of guys right now."
Maddon wasted no time using Talbot, as the 24-year-old made his Major League debut against the Red Sox on Monday night in that exact scenario.
With left-handed starter Scott Kazmir struggling from the game's onset, Talbot entered to face the sixth batter of the fourth inning, with runners on second and third. He totaled three innings in Tampa Bay's 13-5 loss to Boston, allowing four runs on five hits and three walks with a pair of strikeouts.
Both Talbot and Niemann have been with the club previously this season, although each with a starkly different Major League stint. Niemann posted a 1-1 record with a 5.79 ERA in two starts for the Rays, and he went 9-5 with a 3.59 ERA for Triple-A Durham. Talbot did not get to pitch during an abbreviated one-day callup and went 13-9 with a 3.86 ERA in Durham.
"First time I was called up it was against the Red Sox, pretty big series, and here we are again," Talbot said, upon arriving in the Rays' clubhouse prior to Monday's game.
"It's definitely good to be here, but I do want to help the team. It's awesome to be in this playoff push and to be able to be here in case they need me. I'm excited about it."
Niemann echoed the sentiment, as the lanky right-hander was thrilled to be a part of the Rays' pennant race that was closely monitored all year in Durham.
"It's something I've never been a part of, and I can't wait to see what it's like," Niemann said.
The 25-year-old was also hoping his previous two starts with the Rays would help quell his nerves when he takes the hill the second time around.
Although Niemann and Talbot said they were both comfortable coming out of the bullpen, Maddon did not rule out the possibility of using one of the two right-handers as a spot starter.
The Rays are scheduled to play a doubleheader in Baltimore on Sept. 23, and they have yet to announce their plans for the starting rotation during that four-game series.
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.