ARLINGTON -- Jeff Niemann is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on Wednesday morning to repair the labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder. The surgery will be performed by Dr.Keith Meister at the Trinity Park Surgery Center in Arlington.
News of the surgery broke Monday night, but the Rays right-hander waited until Tuesday afternoon to speak to reporters.
"[Surgery] was really kind of the last resort," Niemann said. "But we've done everything that you can, and it's gotten us this far. We just kind of need a little boost to get us all the way back. Unfortunately, we had to make the tough choice, and it was really the only option out there."
Niemann said that he did not feel like he would be able to compete at the Major League level if he did not have the surgery. Though he pitched well throughout Spring Training while competing with Roberto Hernandez for the fifth spot in the rotation, Niemann started feeling a lot of pain once he began to prepare to work in the bullpen. He said it got to a point where he had difficulty putting on his shirt.
"If you can barely put your shirt on, it's a little more difficult to throw a baseball at this level," Niemann said.
Niemann said recovery time for the operation will depend on the extent of the injury found during surgery, but he added that "optimistically," it would be nine to 12 months for recovery.
The 6-foot-9 right-hander experienced an injury-riddled 2012 campaign when he opened the season as the team's fifth starter. First he suffered a fractured right fibula on May 14 when Toronto's Adam Lind hit a line drive off his ankle.
Niemann spent three and a half months on the disabled list. He returned to make just one more start on Sept. 1 in Toronto, but he pitched only 3 1/3 innings due to tightness in his right arm. That tightness was later diagnosed as slight inflammation in his rotator cuff.
"It's really frustrating, because [the period before going on the DL for the first time in 2012 was] the best I've ever been as a pitcher at any level in my career," Niemann said. "On the good side, that's what we have in our head to get back to. We were on a roll and things were going the way they should have gone. And then the script gets flipped over a little bit trying to get out of this hole that seems to get deeper and deeper. All you can do is keep fighting."
Niemann said he's talked to friend and former teammate J.P. Howell, who had shoulder surgery and is now fully recovered and pitching for the Dodgers. And what did Howell tell him?
"Buckle up, buckle up," Niemann said. "Stay positive and hang on. It's going to be bumpy sometimes. But at the end of the day, this is the right decision and the only chance that we have of getting back to where we want to be."
Umpire Foster admits he missed third-strike call
ARLINGTON -- Monday night's Rays-Rangers game ended on a controversial call that saw home-plate umpire Marty Foster call out Ben Zobrist on a pitch that appeared to be way outside the strike zone for the final out of the game. Afterward, Foster admitted that he missed the call.
Manager Joe Maddon argued with Foster after the call was made. Later, Foster called the Rays manager on the phone.
"We talked briefly after the game last night," Maddon said. "He knew the play did not come out as planned, and I really respect him a lot for checking in about that. For me, for him, it's over with. I think it shows a lot on his part. Listen, he's a very good umpire. He's also a very good guy. It's just unfortunate that that would happen with him last night, but it's time to move on."
Zobrist called Monday night's situation "a tough thing for everybody to deal with."
The umpires "know that for us, we get emotional about it," Zobrist said. "And they get emotional about it. Because they're trying to do the right thing, make the right call. So it can be a really hairy, sticky situation emotionally for everybody involved, so you can understand why it got so heated."
Zobrist also credited Foster for coming clean about the call.
"You can't fault a person for understanding that they messed it up, for saying, 'Hey, I blew it,'" Zobrist said. "Who in this room has never had to do that? We all have made those mistakes and said, 'Man, we really screwed that up.' There's nothing more to say, it's nice to know that at least he's willing to admit it. That's kind of a consolation."
Evan Longoria would have been the next batter, had Zobrist reached base.
"I'd like to think I'm going to go up there and get a base hit and win the game, but [if the call went the Rays way], it didn't guarantee us a win," Longoria said. "So, we all make mistakes, hopefully Marty learns from it and doesn't do something like that again."
Merits of instant replay a hot topic among Rays
ARLINGTON -- After Monday night's game ended on a controversial call, the subject of the day in the Rays' clubhouse was instant replay.
David Price said everybody wants the right call to be made, but they don't want that to take away from the flow of the game.
"I mean, I don't know, that's part of it," Price said. "That's part of the game. It either goes your way or it doesn't. I'm sure every team feels like it goes against them more often than not. But it is tough. You want to see the right call made in certain situations. Like last night. That was a very big part of the game for us, with Zo [Ben Zobrist] being 4-for-5 against Nathan, with two homers. That obviously was ball four, and we've got Longo coming up, who is 3-for-3 in that game. With runners on first and second, that's a position nobody wants to be in on the pitching mound."
Evan Longoria said he is against the idea of replay for ball and strike calls.
"I've always kind of been a traditionalist," Longoria said. "People make mistakes. You hate to see it happen on the other end, be on the receiving end of a bad call. But we all know in here that we've gotten some calls from time to time that have helped us win games. So again, you want the game to be played out as fair as possible.
"The best games are the games you don't realize the umpires are there. You just go out and play the game. And they don't get in the way. They just stay out of the way, do their job and stay out of the spotlight. Unfortunately, last night that wasn't the case. And hopefully we don't have to look back on today or yesterday and say that that was a big game."
Zobrist, who was the victim of the controversial called third strike Monday night, said he would like to see instant replay, and he believes that it is coming to Major League Baseball before too long.
"I think things like [what happened in Monday night's game] will be factored in when they're deciding how to add instant replay to the game," Zobrist said. "It's going to happen, I think. But it's just a matter of how they're going to administer it and whether teams will have a chance to challenge a call or whether there's certain parts of the game when they can convene and get the call right. I believe that they're going to do it sometime soon."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.