ST. PETERSBURG -- Wade Townsend, the Rays' No. 1 pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft (eighth overall) was released Monday.

The hard-throwing right-hander from Rice University has been injured for most of his tenure with the Rays and was 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA in three games for the Gulf Coast League Rays this season.

Townsend, 26, was teammates with Rays starter Jeff Niemann at Rice when they won the 2003 NCAA Championship.

"It just seemed like one thing after another," said Niemann of his friend. "[It] just seemed like every one of the surgeries he had, as soon as he got healthy from one of those, something else kind of crept in and happened.

"So unfortunately it's one of those things that happen. It's kind of a humble reminder of what could happen. So you keep working hard and all that stuff, don't take any of this for granted, because it could be the other way around."

Townsend was named the Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2004 after going 12-0 with a 1.80 ERA and holding opponents to a .181 batting average. Niemann said Townsend was the real deal.

"Yeah, I saw him pitch and there was a reason he was picked in the top 10 two years in a row," Niemann said. "There are reasons for all of those things. It's unfortunate how his career has turned out so far. It's just one of those deals. Unfortunately he's in the high percentage of people who don't make it. It's just one of those things."

Niemann said Townsend plans to head to Houston and take some time to consider his future.

"He's going to go home and see what he thinks about it, then see if anything is available," Niemann said. "Bottom line, you've got to be healthy to pitch. And he hasn't been healthy too much. So it's just one of those things."