ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays starting pitcher Jeff Niemann, who is out with a broken leg, is still optimistic he can return to the field in August.
The big righty said he played catch from 90 feet Friday and wants to begin running whenever the training staff will allow him to.
"We're making progress," Niemann said. "I wish I could report we could run three miles right now -- it's not like that -- but we're making progress each day."
While he still isn't able to run, he is keeping his cardio up by going on an elliptical machine, bike or spending time in the pool. After he can effectively run, the next step will be to throw off the mound. Niemann said he then believes things can progress quickly from there and will have a better idea of a time frame, with a hopeful return date in August.
"That's what we're hoping for, and whatever we gotta do to make that happen, we're gonna try to do that," Niemann said. "As far as we can see, that's the best thing we can project at this point in time. ... They told me August, and that's great, it's not September."
The injury, which happened when he took a line drive off the leg against Toronto, has kept Niemann out since May 14. Due to his 6-foot-9 height and big frame, the leg has taken a bit longer to heal, which he said he's become used to.
"It's just what we have to live with every day," Niemann joked. "Getting into certain cars, ducking under doors, it's what we do. It's true, it definitely plays a role. Things are a little bit different when you've got somebody that's 6-foot-9 and the injury is in the ankle. It's probably a little different to somebody who's not 6-foot-9."