NEW YORK -- On Thursday night, Jeff Niemann will make his sixth start of the season for the Rays, but the occasion will also mark his first career start at Yankee Stadium.

Whether it's the new Yankee Stadium or the old, pitching against the Bombers in their home park can be a daunting experience that can cause nerves to battle ability.

For the most part, Niemann has been pretty steady this season, save for a five-spot in the first inning against the Orioles in his first start of the season and his last outing, when he allowed five earned runs on seven hits in three innings against the Red Sox on Saturday night.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he would never talk to one of his players about a situation that Niemann faces when he makes his first New York start.

"Immediately that would be putting the wrong thought into his head," Maddon said. "What I talked to him about the other day was in regard to his pitching in general. I was talking to him about his approach, and it had nothing to do about Yankee Stadium. It had everything to do with his next start.

"So I think when it comes down to me giving advice, whether it's a big game or whatever, I really try to keep the same kind of approach with my conversation. And with him, it was regardless of whether we were playing in New York or Kansas City, I would have spoken to him in the same way. Because the message I wanted to give him was the same."

Maddon believes Niemann's problems on Saturday were easy to spot.

"More than anything, elevated fastball, missing his location and really not utilizing all of his weapons," Maddon said. "He has other pitches besides the fastball that he's very good with. And I'd just like to see a better balance in how he pitches."

Maddon has always talked about the progression of a Major Leaguer. One of the steps is going from being happy to be in the bigs to feeling like you belong.

"I'm getting there, getting more comfortable every time out with the good and the bad," Niemann said. "You've got to take it all in. You've got to have failure and success. Just kind of learn from each outing and get better."

Niemann feels there's a process to the progression.

"Yeah, you've got to figure it out," he said. "There's things you don't know being a young guy and you learn the hard way. And that's the only way you're going to learn."

Pitching matchup
TB: RHP Jeff Niemann (2-3, 5.68 ERA)
Making his first career appearance against the Red Sox on Saturday, Niemann struggled through just three innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on seven hits while striking out three and walking three. After giving up five runs in his first inning of the season, the 26-year-old came into that start with a 2.53 ERA since. But Niemann put Tampa Bay out of it early, when he gave up two runs to Boston in the first, then three in the second. Through his three frames, Niemann was forced into throwing 76 pitches -- 46 for strikes.

NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (2-1, 3.82 ERA)
Most of the damage to Pettitte's line -- three of the six runs -- took place after he left last Friday's game against the Angels. But Pettitte did allow nine hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings, his first poor start of the season. His chance for redemption will come against the Rays, a team he held to three runs in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision last month. Last year against the eventual American League champions, Pettitte was 2-2 with a 4.13 ERA in four starts.

Tidbits
Carl Crawford recorded a stolen base in the seventh inning, marking his ninth consecutive game with at least one stolen base. ... Former Rays radio broadcaster Paul Olden is filling in for famed Yankees public-address announcer Bob Sheppard. ... Shawn Riggans made his first rehab appearance for Double-A Montgomery on Tuesday night, catching three innings while going 1-for-2 at the plate. ... Jason Isringhausen made his second rehab appearance with Triple-A Durham on Tuesday night, and he threw a scoreless inning in relief. ... Matt Joyce is off to a nice start for Durham, hitting .309 with two home runs and seven RBIs through 20 games.

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Up next
• Friday: Rays (James Shields, 3-2, 3.51) at Red Sox (Brad Penny, 2-1, 7.61), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Rays (Scott Kazmir, 3-3, 6.00) at Red Sox (Jon Lester, 2-2, 5.11), 3:40 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Rays (Matt Garza, 3-2, 3.51) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 3-2, 6.75), 8:05 p.m. ET