Friday, June 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Niemann to have shoulder surgery

ARLINGTON, Texas — RHP Jeff Niemann will have surgery on his right shoulder and most likely will miss the rest of the season.

Niemann was examined by Rangers team doctor Keith Meister and given the choice of an injection and rehab or surgery to repair his labrum and rotator cuff and opted for the surgery, which likely will be Wednesday, Rays head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield said Monday.

"He feels he can't compete at this level without it,'' Porterfield said. "He feels like right now it's bothering him too much that he just doesn't have his confidence that he can do what he needs to do.''

Niemann will have an additional MRI exam today before the surgery that "more than likely" will keep him out the whole season, Porterfield said.

Niemann declined to speak with reporters Monday night.

CATCHING DEPTH: As scarce as catchers seem to be for the Rays, it seems odd they would trade away two, both with major-league experience, albeit limited, within a few days for minimal return.

But Monday's deal that sent Robinson Chirinos to Texas for a player to be named or cash, like Friday's trade of Stephen Vogt to Oakland, was the product of the April 1 decision to designate both catchers for assignment — rather than a pitcher such as LHP Alex Torres — to clear space on the 40-man roster.

It was certain both players would be claimed on irrevocable waivers and lost for nothing anyway, so the Rays at least will get something back.

Doing so leaves the Rays with only one catcher in the minor-league system with big-league experience: Chris Gimenez, who is playing at Triple-A Durham. It also elevates Double-A Montgomery C Mark Thomas, who is strong defensively, to fourth on their depth chart. The backup at Triple A is Craig Albernaz, though it's possible they will seek to acquire a more experienced alternative at some point.

"First and foremost, we feel like we have extremely good catching depth/insurance with Chris Gimenez," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "And then getting into the fourth and fifth layer, sometimes you're not able to focus on that as much as you'd like to ideally. The most important thing for us is to have that next line, and beyond that we feel like Mark Thomas has a lot of ability, and it's about putting it all together."

Friedman said with Gimenez playing every day at Durham, there wouldn't have been playing time for Chirinos or Vogt. What also seems clear is the Rays didn't consider either — both are 28 — to be a long-term answer.

"I don't think any team really has beyond three," Friedman said. "It's one of those things that, would you like to have four or five? Sure, and we did have that. But in going through and assessing where we were and what might transpire over the course of the season, something has to give, and in this case it was our very deep depth on the catching front."

Like Vogt, Chirinos was added to the 40-man roster and optioned to Triple A. A similar spring training deal that sent INF Reid Brignac to Colorado was settled for cash.

MISCELLANY: The Rays will wear "varsity letterman" style jackets to Boston for the first themed trip of the season. … Per the Rays TV broadcast, three of the postgame concerts will be Kenny Loggins, Martina McBride and Imagination Movers. The schedule will be released today. The Times reported Carly Rae Jepsen is another. … Triple-A Durham won its home opener 2-1 on a walkoff error after top prospect Wil Myers started the rally with a single. RHP Jake Odorizzi allowed four hits and struck out eight over 62/3 shutout innings.

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